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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.
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Obama to Public Servants: Thanks, and Sorry Things Have Been So Tough For You

As President Obama enters the home stretch of his administration, he seems determined to acknowledge that federal employees have been through a lot during his time in office.

This weekend, in a proclamation recognizing Public Service Recognition Week, Obama said today’s committed civil servants must overcome a lot of obstacles to succeed. “Despite tough circumstances -- including pay freezes, budget cuts, sequestration and a political climate that too often does not sufficiently value their work -- these exceptional leaders continue to make real the fundamental truth that people who love their country can change it,” he said.

In his proclamation, the president said today’s federal employees carry on the work of the Founding Fathers: “From the moment an early band of patriots first came together to secure the blessings of liberty for all, public servants have worked to create a more perfect union,” he declared.

Today’s civil servants, Obama said, “are scientists and teachers, social workers and first responders -- they are the leaders of today's progress and the innovators of tomorrow's breakthroughs. With determination and resolve, they defend our country overseas and work to widen the circle of opportunity and prosperity here at home.”

Obama also declared ...

Journalist Badmouths Two Administrations' Treatment of Whistleblowers

The New York Times' James Risen, who recently was spared threatened prosecution by the Justice Department for refusing to reveal his source for some classified information on operations inside Iran, had some tough words on Wednesday for both the Obama and George W. Bush administrations.

Risen, speaking to hundreds from the podium at the National Press Club to receive the Ridenhour Prize for courage, said, “We in the press have to speak out against the Obama administration’s crackdown on whistleblowers.”  People often ask Risen whether the Obama team “is really that bad” given that “they are liberals,” he said.

“I feel like they must not have been paying attention,” Risen said. “My friends have said the difference between the Bush and Obama administrations on the war on terror is that the Bush people believed in what they were doing.” The Obama people, by contrast, whatever their motives, Risen said, “feel bad about it.”

The Problem With Media and Government, in a Nutshell

The latest issue of Politico Magazine focuses on the media and its relationship to the Washington power structure. The magazine’s “Last Word” section elicits responses from White House reporters to a series of statements, including this one: “I wish White House reporters would do a better job of…”

Scott Horsley of NPR responded with the following:

Following up on the mechanics of governing, recognizing that it’s difficult, and that problems are simply there to be fixed, not scandals to expose, demand firings for and then ignore.

Amen.

(Image via wellphoto/Shutterstock.com)

A Guide to Getting the Most From Your People

It’s no secret that managing the federal workforce is a major challenge these days. While workers continue to report that they believe their work is important and satisfying, Federal Employee Viewpoint Survey results show that morale is suffering from years of budget cuts and pay freezes. What’s worse, employees’ faith that their leaders are maintaining high standards of ethics and integrity is declining.

The good news is that there are a series of actions that federal managers, agency leaders and political overseers can take to boost government’s performance and get the most out of its workforce. Howard Risher, who has managed compensation consulting practices for two national firms and has written four books on pay and performance, lays out some of the options in a new Government Executive ebook, Managing the Workforce.

The ebook is divided into five chapters:

  • Performance Anxiety: A trusting work environment can offset many challenges.
  • Model Behavior: Great places to work are built on respect and clear communication.
  • Think Strategically: A good HR department can take an organization to the next level.
  • Pay Reform: It’s time to rethink the General Schedule.
  • Accountability Matters: Successful organizations require strong management.

Download your copy of ...

Did VA Officials Encourage Employees to Pay To Talk to Dead People?

Data manipulation and mismanagement of the mail at the Veterans Affairs Department’s regional office in Philadelphia apparently isn’t bad enough. Managers at the facility also are allegedly encouraging employees to pay to talk to dead people.

Lucy Filipov, assistant director of VA’s Philadelphia Regional Office, allegedly threw a party at her house that included Gary Hodge, head of the pension management center, his wife, and several employees. So far, okay. Except Hodge’s wife professed to be a medium who could help the living commune with the dead. And the invited guests (employees) allegedly were encouraged to pay her $30 each for that experience. Soliciting money from subordinates in the federal government is a no-no.

That gem was among the many disturbing and hard-to-believe stories that emerged during a Wednesday congressional hearing on problems at Veterans Benefits Administration facilities in Philadelphia, Pa., and Oakland, Calif. But tales of the alleged “medium” and “fortune-telling” party were certainly the most entertaining.

Filipov was at the House Veterans’ Affairs Committee hearing on Wednesday, and Chairman Rep. Jeff Miller, R-Fla., asked her directly about the supernatural soiree. She said she was told by an employee of the inspector general’s office ...