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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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Are 'Obama Loyalist Bureaucrats' in the Crosshairs?

Are federal employees “panicked” after a conservative media outlet published names of government executives the outlet believes are hostile to President Trump’s agenda and should be fired? That was the headline of a March 22 story in Politico that cited a Feb. 18 report published in Breitbart News, the former professional perch of Stephen Bannon, President Trump’s chief strategist.

The Breitbart story listed what it called the top 10 “holdover Obama loyalist bureaucrats President Trump could either fire immediately or remove from their current positions.” What was alarming to some is that six of the 10 were not political appointees, but career civil servants—four at the State Department, one at Health and Human Services and one at the Administration for Children and Families, which is part of HHS. What sins did these public servants commit? They worked, apparently successfully, to implement programs supported by a president—just not this president.

It’s not a secret that the Trump administration is pushing very different policies from the previous administration. But the civil service was established expressly to ensure that government jobs were awarded on merit, not political patronage. While there’s widespread understanding that civil service reforms are...

What’s Wrong With the Pentagon’s Civilian Personnel System?

The nonprofit Bipartisan Policy Center doesn’t mince words in a new report about the Defense Department’s antiquated approach to managing troops and civilians:

“If the military personnel system errs on the side of instability and frequent turnover, the civilian personnel system has the opposite problem. Civilian employees may remain in their positions almost indefinitely—typically regardless of their level of performance.”

Ouch.

The report, “Building a F.A.S.T. Force: A Flexible Personnel System for a Modern Military,” focuses mostly on the uniformed side of the equation, but it prescribes a fairly radical cure for what ails the civilian side. For starters, the authors want to take the Office of Personnel Management out of the picture.   

The civilian workforce is sometimes viewed as incidental to military operations, but there are more civilians working for the Pentagon than there are uniformed troops in the Navy and Air Force combined. The 770,000 civil servants who support the services are managed under 66 different personnel systems, according to the report. That’s probably 65 too many, the authors concluded.  

Roughly two-thirds of defense civilians are managed under the General Schedule civil-service personnel system. It’s a rigid, rule-based system...

TSA Ready for Its Closeup in the Hit Movie 'Get Out'

One of the federal agencies the public doesn’t always love plays a central role in the hit horror/comedy movie “Get Out,” the fourth highest-grossing movie this past weekend.

The edgy satire of modern race relations written and directed by Jordan Peele features a key character in uniform who speaks proudly of his TSA employment. It confirms that the 16-year-old agency is now a familiar part of the life-in-America landscape.

The verdict on the agency, however, is mixed. Without giving away the plot, suffice it to say that this employee ends up being a good guy, while the police are portrayed as ignoring his attempt at whistleblowing.

The film ends with that character’s reference to TSA’s full name interrupted by a word that can’t be published on a G-rated website.

A TSA spokesman declined comment.

Trump Plans to Hire a Team of Lawyers to Secure Land for Border Wall

Anyone who still doubts that President Trump is serious about building a wall between the United States and Mexico should take a closer look at the budget proposal the administration released this morning.

In the section describing Justice Department priorities, the proposal calls for “the addition of 20 attorneys to pursue federal efforts to obtain the land and holdings necessary to secure the Southwest border and another 20 attorneys and support staff for immigration litigation assistance.”

Eminent domain—the government appropriation of private property (against the will of private property owners) for a greater public good—is something Trump has long supported. It’s an approach he leveraged in the construction business to thwart uncooperative people who stood in the way of his building projects and he defended its use during the Republican debates. While property owners are compensated for their loss, the practice is highly contentious and at odds with the views of  many conservatives and libertarians. A piece last year in the conservative National Review,Memo to The Donald: There are ways to acquire property without using government force,” illustrates the point.

The fact that the Justice Department intends to bring on 20 attorneys expressly for the purpose...

Run (or Walk) To Help Out Feds in Need

Here are three things you can do on Sunday, May 7: raise funds to help out federal employees in need, show support generally for public servants, and get some exercise.

And you can do them all simultaneously at the Federal Employee Education and Assistance Fund’s annual 5K Run/Walk.

FEEA is a nonprofit organization devoted to helping federal employees in need through loans, scholarships and grants. Since its founding in 1986, the organization has assisted more than 50,000 employees and family members. It is perhaps best known for its work with the children of victims of the 1995 bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City.

The May run/walk will take place in connection with Public Service Recognition Week. In Washington, the event will be held Anacostia Park. But FEAA is encouraging people around the country to form local teams and run or walk in their own communities.

By doing so, FEEA hopes to boost participation in the annual event. FEEA Executive Director Joyce Warner said the organization would like to see 1,000 registrants across the country “coming out in force to support federal employees.”

Proceeds from registration for the event go to...

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