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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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What Does It Take To Get Fired by a Federal Agency?

Imagine if your boss deemed your work “unacceptable” and you received the lowest-possible performance rating. Three years in a row. Most of us would expect—should expect—to lose our jobs. It seems that some managers at the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office hold a different view.

A jaw-dropping report by the Commerce Department’s inspector general chronicles the findings of an investigation into charges that a patent examiner abused the agency’s telework program. The IG substantiated the allegations and much more. Investigators determined that the employee inflated his work hours by more than 40 percent in 2014 alone—possibly much more, because they gave him the benefit of the doubt where evidence was lacking.

But that wasn’t the most egregious finding. The employee, “Examiner A” in the IG report, had received lousy performance reviews three years running. He also had been warned 9 times about his substandard performance and in 2014, USPTO uncovered 13 separate instances of work-related misconduct known as “work credit abuse,” when an examiner intentionally manipulates production data.The IG found evidence the examiner violated criminal laws and referred the case to the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of...

Big Hacks, Big Data and the Government of Tomorrow

With the breach of the Office of Personnel Management’s database and theft of personal information about millions of federal employees, issues of cybersecurity and the government’s data management practices have captured the nation’s attention.

That’s why this year we’ve decided to focus squarely on these topics at Nextgov Prime 2015, our annual conference on how advances in information technology are shaping the government of tomorrow.

Nextgov Prime takes place Sept. 9 from 7:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the Renaissance Downtown D.C. Hotel in Washington.

Confirmed speakers for the event include:

  • Kathryn Sullivan, administrator of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration
  • Jason Matheny, director of the Intelligence Advanced Research Projects Activity
  • David DeVries, principal deputy chief information officer of the Defense Department

The event also will feature Shishu Gupta, deputy chief information officer of the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency; Shane Harris, Daily Beast senior intelligence and national security correspondent and author of @War: The Rise of the Military-Internet Complex; Nicholas Marinos, assistant director for IT at the Government Accountability Office; and Michael Schoenbaum, senior adviser, Mental Health Services, Epidemiology & Economics, National Institute of Mental Health.

The event provides an opportunity for federal...

Consumer Bureau Couldn't Buy Better Publicity

“The Agency That’s Got Your Back,” screams the headline in the Aug. 24 issue of Time magazine (subscription required). Being read all over the hinterland this week is reporter Massimo Calebresi’s profile of the four-plus-year-old Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, “a little-known government watchdog [that] is striking fear into the lending industry.”

That portrait of a regulator as the consumer’s friend is a far cry from much of the coverage given the bureau since it was created by the 2010 Dodd-Frank Financial Reform Act. Republicans in Congress have attacked its funding structure, recess-appointed director, alleged discrimination against female and minority employees, and its building renovations.

Many in the lending and credit card industries have warned of a new Washington bully.

“CFPB is the most powerful agency we have seen in Washington since J. Edgar Hoover ran the FBI,” said banking lobbyist Richard Hunt in the Time piece.

The article showcases a retired Michigan teacher, a Republican who opposed the bureau’s creation, but who changed her tune last year. Desperately behind on her mortgage, she filed a complaint against a mortgage lender who tacked an $11,599.32 surcharge onto her emergency refinancing. A day after she described...

Why Obama’s Post-Presidential Role Model Could be Herbert Hoover

Earlier this week, the New York Times reported on President Obama’s burgeoning effort to determine exactly what to do after he leaves the Oval Office for the last time in January 2017. It involves holding several dinners in recent months with business executives, thinkers, and those who might be interested in making financial contributions toward the creation of an Obama presidential library.

The piece contained this tidbit:

At a dinner this year at Spruce, a restaurant in the Presidio Heights neighborhood of San Francisco, Mr. Obama urged technology executives to focus their philanthropic efforts on helping government become more efficient, giving some the impression that the topic would most likely be a theme of his agenda after leaving office.

In addition, the Times reported that at a dinner at the White House in February, also attended by tech executives,“the president told the group that he wanted to focus on civic engagement and opportunities for youths, pushing guests for ideas about how to make government work better…”

Those aren't the only times lately that Obama has shown interest in the issue of government’s performance. In an interview with Fast Company magazine in June, the president talked about...

Smithsonian Holds Out Virtual Tin Cup for Spacesuit Restoration

You might think a suit designed to be worn on the surface of the moon would be highly durable. But that’s not the case. Spacesuits are actually fragile and subject to decay, which is why those from the early days of the space program have spent much of their time in recent years out of the public eye, sitting in storage facilities awaiting expensive restoration before they can be displayed.

Now the Smithsonian Institution has gone hat in hand to the public in an effort to fund a project to restore iconic spacewear. On July 20, the museum launched a Kickstarter campaign called Reboot the Suit to refurbish the suit worn by Apollo 11’s Neil Armstrong, the first man to walk on the moon.

The campaign reached its goal within a few days. So the Smithsonian upped the ante, seeking another $200,000 to restore the suit worn by Mercury astronaut Alan Shepard, the first American in space. That effort ends Wednesday, and as of late Tuesday morning, it too had reached its goal.

You might ask why an organization that gets an annual appropriation from Congress is extending a tin cup to the public to fund ongoing...