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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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Smithsonian Boosts Hipster Credentials to Save Endangered Species

The Smithsonian Institution was ranked in 2013 as one of the best places to work in federal government.

It makes sense; the agency is largely tasked with maintaining art, curating museums and running zoos. You can now add to that list “makes songs with hipster indie bands.”

The Smithsonian Institution’s National Zoo -- and the zoo’s Conservation Biology Institute -- teamed up with Portugal. The Man to create “The Endangered Song” in an effort to promote the cause of the Sumatran tiger.  The conservationists estimate there are only 400 of the breed of tiger remaining in the world, and it will “go extinct unless we take action.”

To flag that urgency -- and perhaps to boost the hipster-ness of the song -- the band released just 400 vinyl copies of the recording, which were designed to become unplayable after a set number of listens. No digital version of the song existed at the time the records were sent out to a targeted list of actors, activists and journalists (sadly, Government Executive did not make the cut). These recipients were then encouraged to convert the vinyl into a digital recording and spread the song to the masses.

At least one version of the ...

No, the Postal Service Is Not 'Hoarding' Ammunition

The U.S. Postal Service is buying up a ton of bullets as part of a governmentwide conspiracy to limit the amount of ammunition available to the general public.

That would be a great lede. Unfortunately, it’s not true.

Conservative websites like Newsmax and Breitbart published stories last week implicitly asserting that claim. Newsmax quoted a gun advocate, who said the government is violating Second Amendment rights “via the back door by limiting the ammo available to owners.”

The story went viral, and the Postal Service decided it had to respond.

USPS has a law enforcement component. That component purchases ammunition sometimes. End of story, said agency spokesman Dave Partenheimer.

“The U.S. Postal Service is not hoarding ammunition,” Partenheimer said in a statement posted to the agency’s website. Instead, the Postal Service Inspection Service -- a “highly specialized, professional organization, which performs primary investigative and security functions essential to a stable and sound postal system and the security of the U.S. mail” -- is buying ammunition for various training and duty needs.

So, relax; there will still be plenty of bullets to fend off the imminent robot uprising.

(Image via George W. Bailey/Shutterstock.com)

Did Big Government End Slavery?

The debate over the size of the federal government took a turn for the absurd this week, as former Sen. Jim DeMint, now head of the Heritage Foundation, found himself in the spotlight for mounting an argument that big government had nothing to do with ending slavery in the United States.

Appearing on a radio talk show, DeMint said “a lot of the move to free the slaves came from the people. It did not come from the federal government.” In fact, he said, the “real reason” the slaves were freed was the Constitution, which “kept calling us back to ‘all men are created equal and we have inalienable rights’ in the minds of God.”

In the end, DeMint insisted, “no liberal is going to win a debate that big government freed the slaves. In fact, it was Abraham Lincoln, the very first Republican, who took this on as a cause and a lot of it was based on a love in his heart that comes from God.”

There were a couple of problems here, as many commentators pointed out. The first is that the “all men are created equal” language DeMint highlights appears in the Declaration of Independence, not ...

A Symbolic Victory for Open Office Setups

The General Services Administration has won at least a symbolic victory that should help its push for the "Total Workplace."

That’s the office design—now in place at GSA’s F Street headquarters and recommended to other agencies—aimed at achieving savings and collaboration through desk sharing, telecommuting and mobile devices.

GSA Administrator Dan Tangherlini has made no secret of the fact that he embraced the idea after a trip to New York City in 2012, during which he saw the famous “bullpen” office arrangement used by the top aides to then-Mayor Michael Bloomberg.

The downsides to the open office, critics note, are reduced privacy and the distractions of noise. Debate over such issues even entered into the 2013 New York mayoral election, the one that resulted in the swearing in of Democrat Bill de Blasio this January.

After multiple inquiries to City Hall from Government Executive, de Blasio’s busy press team on Tuesday finally reported the new mayor’s plans for his office arrangement: Mayor de Blasio is keeping the bullpen.

Lawmaker: We Deserve a Pay Raise

Rep. Jim Moran, D-Va., has made a career out of sticking up for Executive Branch employees, consistently fighting for pay raises and other benefits to support the federal workforce.

In the twilight of his congressional career, however, the 23-year lawmaker is turning his attention to the Legislative Branch, and concerning himself with a different group’s pay: his own.

In an interview with CQ Roll Call, Moran – who will retire at the end of 2014 -- said members of Congress, whose base pay is $174,000 annually, do not make enough money.

“I think the American people should know that the members of Congress are underpaid,” Moran said. “I understand that it’s widely felt that they underperform, but the fact is that this is the board of directors for the largest economic entity in the world.”

He added many members “can’t even afford to live in Washington,” and many lawmakers live in “small little apartment units” or in their offices. Moran said he plans to introduce an amendment to the appropriations bill for the Legislative Branch to provide legislators their first raise since 2009.

He concedes, however, the provision is not likely to prove popular.