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Government Executive Editor in Chief Tom Shoop, along with other editors and staff correspondents, look at the federal bureaucracy from the outside in.

OPM Tries to Thwart Political Appointees Trying to Burrow In to the Bureaucracy

The Office of Personnel Management last week issued a memo to agency leaders aimed at preventing officials appointed by President Obama from illegally “burrowing in” to career federal positions during the transition to a new administration.

In early July, lawmakers asked OPM to provide Congress with information about any agency efforts to convert appointees to career civil servants. Trump campaign officials had earlier expressed concern about the practice, with New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, who is leading Donald Trump’s transition effort, vowing to change Civil Service laws if necessary to root out any holdovers.

It is not illegal to move someone from an appointee position into a career slot in certain circumstances, but it does require oversight and approval from OPM.

In the Aug. 11 memo to agencies, OPM Acting Director Beth Cobert spelled out the requirements, noting that the agency would continue to review any such proposals, and included “pre-appointment checklists” for both competitive service positions and non-political excepted service positions.

The concern about appointees swiping career federal jobs is an old one. During the 2000 presidential election, then-President Bill Clinton’s OPM Director Janice Lachance warned agency Human Resources officers to be on the lookout for appointees...

Some Advice for Feds During the Presidential Transition: Expect Pushback

Combining common sense with experienced insight, the Senior Executives Association’s Professional Development League has come out with tips for career managers to successfully navigate the presidential transition.

SEA’s first-ever “Handbook on Presidential Transition for Federal Career Executives” delivers 20 pages of orientation on such issues as the role of career executives during a transition and complying with the Vacancies Act. It also outlines new coordinating procedures at the Office of Management and Budget and General Services Administration required by the 2015 Presidential Transitions Improvement Act.

Some examples of the tips managers will find:

“Don’t cling to old ideas.”

“Accept confusion and uncertainty as the new team gets in place and develops its agenda and try to help your career staff and the new team operate through that.”

“Expect pushback until the new team develops trust in you.”

The handbook also contains suggestions for how to coordinate activity with the Government Accountability Office, which is required to give briefings to new officials.

The booklet, accompanied by webinars, also offers handy deadlines. By Sept. 15, for example, acting officers must be designated for vacant non-career positions, and by Nov. 1, agency briefing materials must be finalized.

“For many executives...

Donald Trump Has Great Faith in Federal Bureaucrats

In a major economic address Monday at the Detroit Economic Club, Donald Trump offered up some boilerplate GOP criticism of his Democratic rival: “All Hillary Clinton has to offer,” he said, “is more of the same: more taxes, more regulations, more bureaucrats, more restrictions on American energy and American production.”

Criticism of bureaucrats is nothing new for Trump. Like most other Republican candidates for president, he has been known to dismiss career government employees as impediments to economic growth and effective government. Indeed, talking points distributed to media outlets in advance of Monday’s speech said Trump would promise to "remove bureaucrats who only know how to kill jobs [and] replace them with experts who know how to create jobs."

He didn’t actually do that in the speech, possibly because his staff realized it would be difficult, if not impossible, under today’s civil service rules to keep such a promise. And in fact, what Trump did say in the address showed an unusual amount of faith in the bureaucracy.

Trump said he would “ask each and every federal agency to prepare a list of all of the regulations they impose on Americans which are not necessary, do not...

Improving Customer Experience, When the Taxpayer Is Your Customer

The customer may not always be right, but successful businesses know that it’s best to treat them as if they are (and when they’re wrong, to let them down ever so gently). Friendly, efficient, competent service fosters loyalty, and in the private sector, that engenders growth and profitability. For government agencies though, where customers are taxpayers, the experience is often a lot more complicated—and more fraught.

As former OMB executive Shelley Metzenbaum noted in a recent column: “Any form of waiting [for service] is irritating, but we seem to reserve a special level of ire when waiting for government.”

In recent years, agencies have rightly put a much greater focus on improving the experience of their customers. The Obama administration has made improving customer service a priority goal across all agencies:  

The American people deserve a Government that is responsive to their needs. Citizens and businesses expect government services to be well-designed, efficient, and generally comparable to the services they receive from leading private sector organizations. Whether they call the IRS for an answer to a tax question or visit a Social Security Administration office to adjust their benefits, they should experience high-quality interactions with the Federal...

Two Decades of GovExec.com

Twenty years ago today, I was sitting in my office eagerly — and tensely — waiting for our information technology team to flip the switch on a server and launch us into the digital age. We’d spent months building GovExec.com from scratch to reach this moment of truth.

Luckily, it went off without a hitch, and we were off and running. Soon, Tim Clark, then-editor of Government Executive, walked down the hall and casually asked, "What's new on the site today? After all, we're in the news business now, right?"

At that moment, I realized the real work — and fun — was ahead of us.

We’ve come a long way since that hot August day in 1996 when we launched — figuring, in case something went wrong, that few people would be paying attention in the sleepy summer months. And things did go wrong. I was prone to overwriting the HTML on the home page on occasion, and once we managed to destroy the whole site and had to rebuild it on the fly.

Michael Reeder, who led the launch effort, managed that situation with aplomb — and with the help of intern extraordinaire Brian Friel, who has gone on...

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