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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.

Remembering Oklahoma City

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The gut-wrenching experience of hearing about the bombing of the Alfred E. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City doesn't seem like it was 16 years ago. In retrospect, it's a bit depressing to look back and think that if a new respect and apprecation for federal employees developed in the aftermath of the bombing, it was short-lived indeed. By the end of 1995, we'd see furloughs of hundreds of thousands of federal workers, and an ongoing attack on the excesses of bureaucracy that continues pretty much to this day.

Here's an interesting anecdote President Clinton related in his 1996 State of the Union address:

Our federal government today is the smallest it has been in 30 years, and it's getting smaller every day. Most of our fellow Americans probably don't know that. And there is a good reason: The remaining federal workforce is composed of Americans who are now working harder and working smarter than ever before, to make sure the quality of our services does not decline.

I'd like to give you one example. His name is Richard Dean. He is a 49-year-old Vietnam veteran who's worked for the Social Security Administration for 22 years now. Last year he was hard at work in the federal building in Oklahoma City when the blast killed 169 people and brought the rubble down all around him. He reentered that building four times. He saved the lives of three women. He's here with us this evening, and I want to recognize Richard and applaud both his public service and his extraordinary personal heroism.

But Richard Dean's story doesn't end there. This last November, he was forced out of his office when the government shut down. And the second time the government shut down he continued helping Social Security recipients, but he was working without pay.

On behalf of Richard Dean and his family, and all the other people who are out there working every day doing a good job for the American people, I challenge all of you in this chamber: Never, ever shut the federal government down again.

And here's President Obama's statement today on the anniversary:

Sixteen years ago today, America witnessed a horrific attack in Oklahoma City, killing more than 160 men, women and children, and wounding hundreds of others. Michelle and I send our deepest condolences to the families and friends who lost a loved one and suffered through this tragic event. We also need to remember the resilience and toughness of the American people and know that our nation's resolve to fight terror and combat violent extremism, in all its forms, will not waver. As a nation, we should take a moment to recognize the courage and spirit of our fellow citizens, the first responders who rushed to the site to save countless lives, and the people of the nation who stood together to lift up this tight-knit community. Our thoughts and prayers are never far from those who lost their lives sixteen years ago.

Tom Shoop is vice president and editor in chief at Government Executive Media Group, where he oversees both print and online editorial operations. He started as associate editor of Government Executive magazine in 1989; launched the company’s flagship website, GovExec.com, in 1996; and was named editor in chief in 2007.

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