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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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Cruz-Fiorina Ticket United in Cutting Federal Jobs, Pay

Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, saw the window of opportunity for him to become president closing, and decided to take one last shot.

That shot, it turned out, was aimed directly at federal employees.

Cruz tapped former Hewlett Packard executive and 2016 presidential candidate Carly Fiorina. Throughout her campaign, Fiorina made reforming the federal workforce a centerpiece of her platform. She discussed the need to wade through bureaucracy and cut federal jobs in most of her stump speeches, and promised to reform the civil service during debates.

Fiorina has even spun her laying off 30,000 HP employees as a positive, arguing it provided her the experience she needed to cut the federal workforce. She spoke repeatedly of the need to bring more accountability to federal bureaucrats, as well as the need to change the way they are compensated.

“The government needs to get off seniority systems and go to meritocracies as well,” Fiorina said in May. “Pay for performance.” During her unsuccessful 2010 run for Senate in California, Fiorina pledged to fight for “obvious reforms” such as “limiting federal salaries and benefits.”

Fiorina has touted zero-based budgeting, saying in a debate it would enable the American people to “know where...

Employees Can Be Involved in Armed Robberies as Long as It's On Their Own Time, VA Says

Perhaps David Shulkin just assumed a Veterans Affairs Department employee would be fired for playing a role in an armed robbery.

VA’s undersecretary for health told the House Veterans' Affairs Committee last week that Elizabeth Rivera, a worker at a facility in Puerto Rico who was involved in an armed robbery last year, was no longer with the department.

“So [she is] on paid leave?” asked Rep. Tim Huelskamp, R-Kan.

Shulkin replied that was not his understanding, saying he believed Rivera was “not an employee of the VA.” The undersecretary conceded, however, he may have been incorrect and promised to let the committee know if he was.

On Friday, Shulkin made good on that promise, clarifying Rivera was reinstated to work as a clerk at the Puerto Rico facility “following administrative processes and court approval.” The undersecretary made his clarification in a public statement.

“I have clarified my statement, and will be formally responding to the committee,” Shulkin said, “but it is equally important to me that I provide the facts and set the record straight for our veterans, employees and the general public who entrust us with the care of the nation’s veterans and who expect us...

How the Top Spy Escaped Jury Duty

Jury duty, though mandatory and democratic, can disrupt many citizens’ important work.

On Thursday evening, the point was made by James Clapper, director of the Office of National Intelligence, who was keynote speaker at the Presidential Distinguished Rank Awards banquet put on by the Senior Executives Association.

Six months ago, Clapper received a jury summons from Fairfax County. He asked his executive assistant, Stephanie, to get him out of it. “She called the county clerk and explained about ODNI’s 17 intelligence agencies, its $50 billion budget and all the pressures,” Clapper said. “But the lady was having none of it.”

The clerk did, however, notice Clapper’s age—now 75--and mentioned a special exemption for people over 70. So it was determined, the spymaster said: “We’ll take the geezer exemption.”

In more serious comments, Clapper commended the 43 executives in the State Department’s Benjamin Franklin Diplomatic Reception room who were honored for saving the government a total of $121 billion. He gave a capsule history of the SEA and its formation in 1980 to push for higher pay—noting “how tough it is” to get a spending-conscious White House to join the effort. And he expressed relief...

Doctor Who Helped Expose Lead in Flint’s Water Praises EPA Whistleblower

On the same day prosecutors in Michigan announced criminal indictments of three state and local officials for their role in the contamination of the Flint, Mich., water supply, a whistleblower who brought the case to light was awarded the annual Ridenhour Prize for Truth Telling.

Dr. Mona Hanna-Attisha, a pediatrician at Hurley Children’s Hospital and an assistant professor of medicine at Michigan State University, received the award at a National Press Club luncheon, acknowledging the whistleblowing role played by a staffer at the Environmental Protection Agency’s Chicago regional office, Miguel del Torral.

Hanna-Attisha, having heard alarms sounded about Flint by Virginia Tech civil engineering professor Marc Edwards, tried to trace government blood tests of Flint residents but ran into obstacles. So she assembled a team to analyze the data and published results in a medical journal, which prompted the state to “dismiss and ridicule” her.

Wednesday’s indictments, she said, are of people “whose job it was to make sure that when you turn on the tap the water is safe.” Flint is now in its third year of unsafe water, she added. “When democracy is usurped,” she said, referring to the state-imposed emergency manager who switched Flint...

It’s More Than a Conference, It’s a Fedstival!

For many years, Government Executive and our sister publication, Nextgov (focusing on technology and the future of government), have entertained and educated thousands of federal managers and executives at everything from daylong events to after-work meetups. Now we’ve decided to think even bigger: We’re joining forces to create a multi-day series of interactive sessions aimed at exploring what’s next for government.

We’re calling it Fedstival: The Federal Innovation Festival. And it’s not your average federal management or technology conference.

Fedstival will unfold over the week of Oct. 3-7 in various locations in and around Washington, D.C.  Sessions will examine the innovations and ideas shaping the federal government at a time of great change. It will all take place in the form of conversations, debates, workshops, panels, interviews, networking and behind-the-scenes tours of federal operations.

The overall Fedstival theme is What’s Next, focusing especially on the areas of information technology, the workforce and the next presidential administration. The idea is to convene a gathering of the people who will ultimately be responsible for shaping the government of tomorrow and provide them the inspiration and information to equip themselves for the task.

Our events and...