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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.

Obama: Vast Majority of Federal Employees Are Not Boneheads

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Obama made the comments at a town hall meeting at Minneapolis' Minnehaha Park. Obama made the comments at a town hall meeting at Minneapolis' Minnehaha Park. Jim Mone/AP

President Obama declared Thursday that 99 percent of federal employees are not boneheads.

"Are there some federal workers who do some boneheaded things? Absolutely,” Obama said at a town hall meeting in Minneapolis, Politico reported

The president recalled something that former Defense Secretary Robert Gates told him: “One thing you should know, Mr. President, is that at any given moment on any given day, somebody in the federal government is screwing up.” That, said Obama, is "is true because there are 2 million employees … If 99 percent of the folks are doing the right thing and only 1 percent aren’t, that’s still a lot of people.”

Gates' remarks clearly made an impression on Obama. In Sept. 2012, he also noted publicly that "at any moment in the federal government, there will be people who do dumb things."

The 1 percent principle of boneheadedness probably puts the federal government on par with any other large organization. Of course, it also means that at any particular point in time, in some corner of government, somebody is doing something like pooping in the hallway.

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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