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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.

Good Luck With That 100-Day War on Waste, Mr. Trump

It was almost an afterthought in Donald Trump’s GOP nomination acceptance speech Thursday night, but in the midst of a law-and-order, America-first, no-more-bad-trade-deals address, there was a promise for a good old-fashioned war on waste in government.

“We are going to ask every department head in government to provide a list of wasteful spending projects that we can eliminate in my first 100 days,” Trump said. “The politicians have talked about it; I’m going to do it.”

It’s worth examining that pledge in a little more detail, because it says a lot about how Trump would actually try to run government — and the huge challenge he would be up against.

For starters, Trump’s plan presupposes that heads of federal departments (who would by and large be acting officials in the first 100 days, until Trump’s appointees were confirmed), have control over eliminating projects. They don’t, and neither does Trump himself. By and large, ending federal programs is up to Congress. And historically, lawmakers have shown little interest in cutting projects that, after all, they approved at some point.

Trump’s plan also assumes that agency heads have an interest in cutting the programs they...

Petition Asks Obama to ‘Do What Is Right’ and Grant a Bigger 2017 Pay Raise

So far federal employees have been letting lawmakers and advocacy groups do their bidding when it comes to demanding a higher pay raise in 2017.

On Wednesday, however, an individual joined the chorus asking for a pay hike more than triple President Obama’s proposed 1.6 percent boost by filing a petition on the White House’s We the People website.  The petition by “R.C.” doesn’t explicitly ask Obama for a bigger raise, but it makes a statement in support of the Federal Adjustment of Income Rates (FAIR) Act (S. 2699), introduced by Sen. Brian Schatz, D-Hawaii.

Schatz’s bill, and a similar measure introduced by Rep. Gerry Connolly, D-Va., in the House (H.R. 2699), would give federal employees an across-the board pay raise of 5.3 percent in 2017. The measure has the support of the Federal-Postal Coalition, a collection of more than 20 unions and associations representing employees across government. The coalition wrote a letter to lawmakers last month imploring them to support the bigger raise.

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The We the People petition outlines the reasoning for demanding a 5.3...

Exactly How 'Sophisticated' Is Hillary Clinton on Email Use and Classification?

Amid the fireworks at Thursday’s House hearing featuring FBI Director James Comey came a dispute—largely along partisan lines---about the sophistication of Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton.

The Republican agenda on the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee was to grill Comey on whether politics tinged his decision not to prosecute Clinton for sending classified information on a private email system. The Democrats’ agenda was to portray the hearing itself as Republican political theater.

Each made their case differently when addressing what Comey called the key to his decision not to prosecute: What was Clinton’s intention and thinking when she set up the private server?

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Republicans repeatedly noted that Clinton was an attorney, first lady and U.S. senator before becoming secretary of State, upon which time she would be expected to be briefed and understand the ins and outs of handling classified material.  Clinton “would be sophisticated enough to understand what a “C” in parentheses means,” said Rep. Mark Meadows, R-N.C., referring to the State Department manual’s label for identifying classified material in the text of an email.

Rep. Ron...

FBI’s Balancing Act on Clinton Email Decision

It’s not surprising that FBI Director James Comey went through a long wind-up before delivering his pitch to the world on Tuesday morning: the announcement that his agency would not recommend criminal charges against presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton over her use of a private email server as secretary of State.

Comey for months had been insisting that the FBI would take as much time as needed to be thorough in its investigation, despite political pressure from friends and foes of Clinton in this election season that his team fish or cut bait. He was in an unprecedented situation.

Comey’s wind-up Tuesday was not flattering to Clinton or the to the State Department. “Although we did not find clear evidence” of intentional misconduct,” he said, “there is evidence that they were extremely careless in their handling of very sensitive, highly classified information.” The FBI also found no evidence of outsiders breaching Clinton's email, though Comey said investigators concluded “that the security culture of the State Department in general, and with respect to use of unclassified e-mail systems in particular, was generally lacking in the kind of care for classified information found elsewhere in the government.”


John McCain Goes Straight Talk Express on Defense Personnel Reform

Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., had some nice things to say about Defense Department employees during a recent event at a Washington think tank. But he also had a few choice words for the federal government’s hiring process and the Pentagon bureaucracy.

“Our nation is blessed by the very hardworking [people] -- both military and civilian personnel -- working in the Department of Defense,” the chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee said at the Bipartisan Policy Center in opening remarks before a June 29 discussion on Defense personnel reform. “These are patriotic Americans who wake up every day to do difficult jobs often foregoing easier careers and more lucrative opportunities because they care about the mission of keeping America safe.”

Then, the gloves came off.

“The question is whether our military is able to recruit and retain so many excellent Americans because of its personnel system, or in spite of it,” said the former Republican presidential nominee. “I’m concerned that all too often it’s the latter.” McCain, who isn’t known for pulling punches, went on to call USAJOBS – the website federal job candidates use to apply for nearly every job in government – an “abysmal failure.” To be fair...

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