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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.

More on Woodrow Wilson’s Legacy of Segregating the Civil Service

Last week, I wrote about the troubled legacy of President Woodrow Wilson with regard to his effort to re-segregate the federal workforce. Today, the grandson of one of those directly affected weighs in with a real-world story of the impact of Wilson’s policies.

Writing in The New York Times, Gordon J. Davis, a partner at the law firm Venable, describes the experience of his grandfather, John Abraham Davis, who found genuine opportunity in working for government--and then saw it cruelly taken away.

Davis writes:

Even as the strictures of Jim Crow segregation began to harden in the South, Washington, and the federal Civil Service, offered African-Americans real opportunity for employment and advancement. Thousands passed the civil-service exam to gain coveted spots in government agencies and departments. In 1882, soon after graduating from high school, the young John Davis secured a job at the Government Printing Office.

Over a long career, he rose through the ranks from laborer to a position in midlevel management. He supervised an office in which many of his employees were white men. He had a farm in Virginia and a home in Washington. By 1908, he was earning the considerable salary — for an African-American — of...

When Woodrow Wilson Segregated the Federal Workforce

This week, Woodrow Wilson became the latest historical figure to be drawn into ongoing battles over the legacy of racism at colleges and universities. A group of Princeton students demanded that Wilson’s name be erased from campus facilities and programs--a huge undertaking, given that there’s an entire school at the university (where Wilson served as president before entering the White House) named in his honor.

It’s tempting to dismiss this crusade as an exercise in political correctness, but, as Vox’s Dylan Matthews points out today, Wilson has a checkered past when it comes to race relations. Indeed, he was an ardent segregationist, even by the standards of his time--especially when it came to managing the federal workforce.  

Here’s how William Keylor, professor of history and international relations at Boston University, describes the atmosphere in government when Wilson took office in 1913:

Washington was a rigidly segregated town--except for federal government agencies. They had been integrated during the post-war Reconstruction period, enabling African Americans to obtain federal jobs and work side by side with whites in government agencies. Wilson promptly authorized members of his cabinet to reverse this long-standing policy of racial integration in the federal...

The Daily Show: It 'Sucks' to Work At a 'Gutless Regulatory Agency'

While the comedic value of the Federal Employee Viewpoint Survey has remained largely untapped, it nonetheless played a starring role on The Daily Show Thursday when Jordan Klepper cited it in a segment on the efficacy of the Federal Election Commission.

While showing the employee satisfaction ratings on screen, Klepper noted that feds employed at the FEC rate the agency near the bottom in governmentwide rankings. To uplift FEC workers, Klepper went to the agency's offices, hung mock motivational posters and even introduced agency head Ann Ravel to someone "from one of the few" agencies ranking worse than the FEC: a man dressed in a hazmat suit meant to be someone from the Chemical Safety and Hazard Investigation Board.

Watch the encounter below or check out the full segment on Comedy Central's site.

Why Federal Employees May Soon Want to Go Electric

Much like Bob Dylan in 1965, federal employees may soon want to go electric.

An amendment approved by the House on Tuesday as part of a much larger transportation bill would authorize federal agencies to install electric car charging stations in their parking lots. The measure, introduced with bipartisan support, would charge each individual employee using the station a fee, making the proposal budget neutral.

Lawmakers currently have that option at the Capitol, and the amendment’s authors wanted to expand the program to the entire federal workforce. The General Services Administration would be tasked with the construction, installation and operation of the charging stations on federal properties.

"I was surprised to learn that members of Congress can recharge their cars when they are at the House of Representatives but my constituents who work at other federal offices are actually barred from having charging facilities at their federal workplace," said Rep. Zoe Lofgren, D-Calif., a cosponsor on the amendment, when introducing a similar, standalone bill last year.

Reps. Thomas Massie, R-Ky., who powers his Kentucky home with solar energy and himself drives an electric car, and Anna Eshoo, D-Calif., who represents 5,000 federal employees in Silicon Valley, also put...

VA Official Says He Will Allow Senior Executives to Speak More Freely

Members of Congress long have been frustrated with what they perceive as the Veterans Affairs Department’s lack of transparency as well as foot-dragging when it comes to firing poor-performing and corrupt senior executives. House Veterans’ Affairs Committee Chairman Jeff Miller, R-Fla., subpoenaed five VA employees to testify at hearing Monday night about questionable relocation expenses, pay raises and hiring practices; two of them pleaded the Fifth Amendment and refused to answer questions.

“I am sick and tired of asking for information from the department, and being given a runaround,” Miller said on Monday.

Democrats aren’t happy either with the VA’s approach to communication. “Don’t expect the VA in this environment to get the benefit of the doubt on anything,” Rep. Tim Walz, D-Minn., told witnesses, before taking the department to task for withholding information from the press and restricting access to senior leaders.

The media “can’t get a straight answer; they don’t know what’s going on,” Walz said, adding that the department should make senior leaders “who know what’s going on” more available to journalists. “Can’t you give them some rein to answer questions from the press without having to clear...