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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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Writing the Book on Moneyball Government

From the moment the movie version of Michael Lewis’ book Moneyball opened three years ago, folks have pushed to adapt its themes of data-driven decision-making to the federal space. Now these ideas have been collected in a new book written by a conspicuously bipartisan roster of Washington insiders.

Titled Moneyball for Government (Disruption Books), the book repeatedly riffs on the original Moneyball, a tale of how Oakland Athletics general manager Billy Beane put together a winning team with baseball’s smallest player payroll.

“At its heart, moneyball is about crunching numbers and relying on hard evidence—not emotion or tradition—to drive decisions about allocating scarce resources,” write Jim Nussle and Peter Orszag in the book’s introduction. Nussle is a former Iowa Republican congressman and budget director under President George W. Bush, and Orszag was  President Obama’s first budget director after previously heading the Congressional Budget Office.

Many in government, of course, are already moneyballers. Researchers “are coming to conclusions that are reducing homelessness and improving hospice care,” writes former Bush top economic adviser Glenn Hubbard in Moneyball for Government. “They’re simplifying financial aid forms and boosting college enrollment for disadvantaged students,” using many of the same ...

What Are the Lessons Learned from the 2013 Shutdown? Agencies Have No Idea.

On Dec. 11, federal agency coffers are scheduled to run dry, creating the possibility for another government shutdown.

The key word there appears to be “another;” agencies went through the whole shutdown thing just one year ago, so they should be ready for it again. They should have learned from what happened in October  2013 to allow for a smoother potential shutdown and lessened disruption on operations, right?

Not so, says the Government Accountability Office.

A recent audit of three agencies’ response to last year’s shutdown found government offices never documented what they did during that time; they have no record of what worked well and what did not, what they might want to try again in a future lapse of appropriations or what they might need to rethink.

“[Office of Management and Budget] staff told us that after the shutdown, they did not direct agencies to update their contingency plans or document in another way how the shutdown was planned for, managed, or implemented in terms of lessons learned for future reference,” GAO wrote in the report.

The auditors said that “documenting what actually happened once a shutdown is over,” including how the agencies got back up and ...

One Way Officials Can Dodge a Question

Top federal officials who speak in public usually feel some obligation to submit to tough questions from the press—or from anyone in an audience who manages to get to the microphone. But retired federal officials may be a different story.

Just ask Ray McGovern, a long-time CIA analyst and active critic of recent U.S. military involvements and clampdowns on whistleblowers at national security agencies. On Oct. 30, McGovern was arrested and briefly jailed by New York City police for attempting to gain access to a speech by ex-CIA Director and Iraq war strategist Gen. David Petraeus.

“I had hoped to hear the photogenic but inept Petraeus explain why the Iraqi troops, which he claimed to have trained so well, had fled northern Iraq leaving their weapons behind at the first whiff of Islamic State militants earlier this year,” McGovern recounted in the Nov. 8 issue of Consortium News. “I even harbored some slight hope that the advertised Q & A might afford hoi polloi like me the chance to ask him a real question.”

McGovern, who had arranged for a friend to buy him a $50 ticket to hear Petraeus at the 92nd St. Young Men's and Young ...

Senator: Good Federal Employees Can’t Be Ordered on Amazon

Good federal employees cannot be mail ordered.

That was the closing argument from Sen. Barbara Mikulski, D-Md., the outgoing chairwoman of the Senate Appropriations Committee, at a hearing Wednesday to discuss a White House request for $6.2 billion in emergency funding to aid the fight against Ebola.

“We need to have a civil service that is reliable,” Mikulski said. “We can’t order it at Amazon.com.”

She went on to say lawmakers need to show they “respect” the federal service, which could be demonstrated by granting President Obama’s funding request.

“Just one year ago they were told they were not essential,” Mikulski said, referring to the 2013 government shutdown. “Now we’re asking them to risk their lives.”

Hundreds of civilian federal employees from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; National Institutes of Health; and State, Defense and Health and Human Services departments have been deployed to West Africa to fight the spread of Ebola, in addition to military personnel in the region. Unlike many in Congress, those workers are not taking “lavish trips,” but instead going to severely infected countries, Mikulski said.

Citing Obama’s funding request for Ebola and, more generally, tightened budgets due ...

Actually, the Elections Were About Making Government Work

Republicans are in an an ebullient mood this week, having exceeded their own electoral expectations by taking over the majority in the Senate and padding their advantage in House seats.

You might expect that this would unleash the firebrand side of the GOP, with renewed talk of slashing and burning the federal establishment and forcing President Obama to back down on efforts to expand government’s scope in areas ranging from health care to immigration.

But it’s remarkable how little of such rhetoric has been floating around. What we haven’t heard this week--at least not much, anyway--is much discussion of slashing the bureaucracy, deeply cutting agency budgets and shutting down government if Obama puts up any resistance.

That, says Republican pollster Frank Luntz, is because the election results were not an endorsement of a Republican revolution, but a plea on the the part of Americans for Washington to get things done.  Writing in the New York Times, Luntz said the elections “were less about the size of government than about making government efficient, effective and accountable.”

That means, first and foremost, not simply throwing sand in the gears of the process. Here’s what presumptive Senate Majority Leader ...