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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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OPM Seeks To Honor (and Reward) Top-Performing Executives

The Office of Personnel Management issued a call this week for federal agencies to nominate high-performing senior executives for recognition and bonuses in the Presidential Rank Awards program.

“Federal senior executive employees perform valuable services on behalf of the American public and those with the highest level of sustained performance deserve recognition for their contributions,” wote OPM Acting Director Beth Cobert in opening the nomination process. Nevertheless, she added, “nominees must meet stringent personal and professional standards; therefore, agencies should expect an extremely rigorous review process.”

Cobert also warned agencies to “consider the current challenging fiscal conditions and resources needed to meet overall agency mission priorities in determining the number of nominations to submit.”

Last year, 24 senior executives were awarded the rank of Presidential Distinguished Executive for their performance in 2014, and another 89 were designated as Meritorious Executives. The number of top honorees has steadily declined in recent years: In 2010, 66 executives were awarded the distinguished rank; in 2011 the figure was 54; and in 2012, 46 executives received the top designation.

The Presidential Rank Awards were canceled in 2013 for the first time since their creation in 1978. At the time, Obama administration officials cited concerns...

Federal Union President on Republican Winning in 2016: 'God Help Us All'

Organized labor almost exclusively supports Democrats in the political arena, and 2016 has not been any different. The top two federal employee unions have both thrown their support behind Hillary Clinton.

For J. David Cox, national president of the American Federation of Government Employees, the stakes could not be higher this year, however.

“God help us all,” Cox told reporters on Monday of the possibility of a Republican winning the White House to succeed President Obama. “This country will be in a serious, serious situation.”

AFGE reached out to every major presidential campaign last year with a questionnaire on issues related to the federal workforce. Clinton; Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt.; and former Gov. Martin O’Malley, D-Md., all responded. AFGE executives have met with Sanders and Clinton, and Cox campaigned with the former secretary of State in Iowa.

None of the Republican candidates responded to the questionnaire.

“There is not a Republican candidate that’s running that hasn’t said they would annihilate federal employee unions and virtually every union in the country,” Cox said.

The firebrand leader cited Florida Sen. Marco Rubio’s legislation to ease the firing of employees at the Veterans Affairs Department, Donald Trump’s experience...

Bureaucrats Create Card Game to Poke Fun at Bureaucrats

When two employees at the Defense Department realized they needed so many levels of approval to drive their own cars across a state line for work purposes that people they had never even met were involved in signing off on the excursion, they decided they had to do something.

That something, it turned out, was to create a card game.

The Defense civilians working in research and development, who requested their names be withheld as they currently work at the department, are putting their finishing touches on the Government Worker card game -- in which the winner is the player who accomplishes the least amount of bureaucratic work.

The employees, who have spent 20 and eight years in the government, respectively, said they have seen things at the workplace “so surreal” they didn’t think anyone would believe them if they told the story. Instead, they decided to bring their experiences to life through their game. They partnered with a friend in graphic design and are currently seeking Kickstarter funding to pay for the printing of the actual game cards.

They describe the game as mix of Cards Against Humanity -- an adult-oriented party game -- and Uno. The players receive “work cards...

Really, Federal Government? You Don't Regulate Flamethrowers? Really?

Ever been so mad at something that you just wanted to just take a flamethrower to it?

According to Guns.com, “getting your hot little hands on one may be a lot easier than you think.” That’s because “there is no federal prohibition against owning a working one.”

Rep. Eliot Engel, D-N.Y., was astonished to learn that, and wants to do something about the situation. And, as Bloomberg Politics reports, because Engel is a fan of “Saturday Night Live,” and especially its former Weekend Update host Seth Meyers, he’s called his legislation the Flamethrowers? Really? Act.

In case you don’t get that reference, it’s a nod to a recurring Weekend Update segment called “Really!?! with Seth and Amy,” the Amy in question being Amy Poehler. In the segment, she and Meyers specialized in skewering celebrities and politicians. Here’s an example:

For Engel, the theme fit the flamethrower situation at the federal level (only two states, Maryland and California, regulate the devices). “You’d just assume—right?—that flamethrowers would be regulated,” he told Bloomberg Politics. “It just causes you to scratch your head and say, ‘Really?’”

Engel’s solution is pretty simple, and included...

How a Bureaucratic Job Turned Ted Cruz Into a Political Renegade

Sixteen years ago, when a young Ted Cruz moved to Austin, Texas, to work in the presidential campaign of George W. Bush, he had big aspirations. A lawyer by training and an indefatigable political operator, he envisioned ending up as White House counsel in a Bush administration.

Things turned out a bit differently. “When Bush won, however,” Shane Goldmacher and Daniel Lippman write in Politico Magazine today, “Cruz would not get the White House post he had dreamed of; instead, he found himself in the bureaucratic backwater of the Federal Trade Commission.”

“I burned some bridges on that campaign,” Cruz told Politico, blaming his youth and immaturity. “It was a difficult chapter when you poured your heart into something for two years and the desires of your heart are denied. That’s hard. And particularly when you’re seeing so many of your friends rewarded.”

The desires of Cruz’s heart involved working in the West Wing. The problem was his relative lack of experience and tendency toward self-promotion.

So Cruz had to settle first for a stint at the Justice Department and then a high-ranking position at the FTC, where he apparently threw himself into his work. Indeed, during...