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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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Boehner: Brace Yourself for Another Government Shutdown

As if the massive OPM data breach didn’t give federal employees enough to worry about this week, on Friday, House Speaker John Boehner warned that a government shutdown could be on the horizon.

Citing a story in Politico, Boehner said Democrats were planning to force another government shutdown by aggressively blocking appropriations bills unless the GOP agrees to raise federal spending. According to Politico, Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid vowed in a closed-door meeting this week with party leaders to block every spending measure raised in the chamber:

“For Democrats, the risks are worth it. By playing hardball this summer, they’re attempting to force Republicans to the negotiating table and hasten a deal to raise strict spending caps, expanding funds for programs like education and infrastructure, among other Democratic priorities.”

In news conferences and statements this week, lawmakers from both parties in both chambers traded jabs and expressed mounting frustration with opponents’ tactics over appropriations, with Boehner complaining that “President Obama has vowed to veto any legislation that adheres to budget caps set in 2011 – caps that he proposed and insisted on.”

Said Boehner:

This is dangerous, and at least one member of the president’s party agrees...

What Do 99 Percent of Federal Employees Have in Common?

The 2 million or so people who work for the federal government are a varied bunch: They come from different educational backgrounds, do all kinds of different jobs and represent various races and ethnicities. But according to the nation’s politicians, 99 percent of them have one thing in common.

They don’t screw up.

“Are there some federal workers who do boneheaded things? Absolutely,” said President Obama last year. But he followed that up by saying “99 percent” of employees “are doing the right thing.”

Obama’s not alone in defending the honor of the vast majority of federal workers. Even Republican leaders do. Just yesterday, House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah, cited the 99 percent good apples figure in discussing legislation to make it easier to fire the bad ones at a National Journal event.

It’s far from the first time he’s sung the praises of the 99 percent. Here’s Chaffetz on the House floor in April:

Let me be clear right away. We have got great federal workers. They care; they are patriotic; they work hard, but we have got a few that are bad apples. We have got to...

Bold Leaders Are Out There. Let's Celebrate Them.

Making a genuine difference in today’s government requires creativity, ingenuity and tenacity. In short, it requires boldness.

That’s why we created the Nextgov Bold Awards several years ago: to honor people who were leveraging advances in technology not just to make things incrementally better, but to boldly challenge the status quo.

Nominations are now open for the 2015 Bold Awards. We’re looking for federal employees who have taken genuine risks and overcome bureaucratic barriers to make real, lasting advances in their agencies. And this year we’ve added two new categories: the Grace Hopper Award, named after the pioneer of computer science who led the way for women in technology, and the Industry Award, recognizing private sector innovators.

Here are the details:

  • Deadline for nominations is June 30.
  • The Nextgov editorial team will select about a dozen finalists, who will be announced in August.
  • Readers will be able to vote for a “People’s Choice” winner online Aug. 10-14.
  • Winners will be announced at the Nextgov Prime conference on Sept. 9 in Washington.

Click here to nominate someone for a 2015 Bold Award

Are Recusals Slowing Down SEC Decision-Making?

More indicators surfaced that critics may have had a point when they warned that Securities and Exchange Commission Chair Mary Jo White might be hampered in leading the agency because of her past Wall Street legal work.

The New York Times business section on Friday gave details on the independent regulator’s on-again, off-again resolution of an accounting fraud case against large federal contractor Computer Sciences Corp.

Key questions of the amount of the settlement, whether the corporation admits wrongdoing, and which officers would be charged have divided the commission evenly along Republican and Democratic lines, the Times noted. Recused from participating in deliberations on the case by the nominally five-member commission is former prosecutor White, whose husband John has represented CSC as a partner in the law firm of Cravath, Swaine and Moore. “Because Cravath’s involvement neutralized Ms. White, it has arguably opened the door for the company to obtain a smaller penalty,” wrote reporters Ben Protess and Peter Eavis.

White has recused herself in four dozen commission actions, they reported. Though the SEC declined comment, the commissioners generally deny that ideology or their party dictates their decisions on punishing corporate misdeeds.

When the Best and Brightest Say No to Government

Much has been written about the views of the millennial generation toward public service:  They don’t seem to mind big government in theory, but they’re not particularly enthralled by the idea of careers in federal agencies.

To the extent millennials are disenchanted with the way government operates, they’re a lot like other Americans: repulsed by the dysfunctional political system at the national level. Jennifer L. Lawless and Richard L. Fox explore this phenomenon in their new book Running From Office: Why Young Americans are Turned Off to Politics.  

In an interview with Lawless published this week, Vox editor in chief Ezra Klein asked her whether this attitude extended into millennials’ view of government employment:

EK: Something your data doesn’t really go into is whether these attitudes toward elected political positions bleed over into attitudes toward working for government agencies. That’s a place where I really do worry about the best candidates simply steering clear of government work — because we really do need good people in state transportation agencies and administering Medicare. And that’s true even if, and maybe especially if, Congress is collapsing into gridlock and dysfunction.

JL: What emerged in the survey and...