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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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An Extraordinary Fed: Katharine Blodgett Gebbie, 1932-2016

She was a gifted scientist, an adventurer who piloted her own plane and a generous colleague with a weakness for good Scotch. America lost a true visionary this summer with the death of Katharine Blodgett Gebbie on Aug. 17—and the federal government lost one of the greatest managers any agency has even known.

An astrophysicist by training, Gebbie nurtured a remarkably accomplished group of scientists at the Commerce Department’s National Institute of Standards and Technology in a career that spanned decades.

I met Gebbie in the fall of 2002 when I interviewed her after she had been awarded a career achievement medal in the Service to America awards program, launched that year by Government Executive and the Partnership for Public Service. Within minutes, I was star-struck. Her graceful, kind manner and frail appearance belied a steeliness and sharp wit. She spoke of planetary nebulae, her passion for flying and the pleasures of Scotch. She was enormously proud of the scientists and staff at NIST.  

By then, within the scientific community, she was widely recognized as an extraordinary leader and manager. Under her leadership at NIST’s Physics Laboratory, which later became the Physical Measurement Laboratory, two of the...

Trump Team Offers Inside Look at Transition Efforts--For $5,000

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, who is heading up Donald Trump’s presidential transition planning, will host an “inside look” at how it is unfolding next month for donors who contribute $5,000 to help fund the effort.

Politico’s Playbook reported the news of the fundraiser Tuesday.

The event, for 40 donors, will be held Sept. 15 in Bernards, N.J. “This will be an inside look on the work underway on planning for the transition,” the invitation reads, according to Politico. The donations go to funding the transition, not the Trump campaign. Corporate donations are permitted.

The Wall Street Journal previously reported that Christie had asked 100 Trump supporters on a private call to donate $5,000 each to help fund transition efforts. He said the campaign hoped to raise a total of $2.5 million to cover transition-related staff and travel costs.

Federal law provides public funding for transitions, but in recent election cycles candidates have also raised their own funds. President Obama raised $4 million in private donations for his 2008 transition, according to the Partnership for Public Service, and received $5.3 million in federal funding.

Christie and other Trump campaign officials, along with representatives...

OPM Tries to Thwart Political Appointees Trying to Burrow In to the Bureaucracy

The Office of Personnel Management last week issued a memo to agency leaders aimed at preventing officials appointed by President Obama from illegally “burrowing in” to career federal positions during the transition to a new administration.

In early July, lawmakers asked OPM to provide Congress with information about any agency efforts to convert appointees to career civil servants. Trump campaign officials had earlier expressed concern about the practice, with New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, who is leading Donald Trump’s transition effort, vowing to change Civil Service laws if necessary to root out any holdovers.

It is not illegal to move someone from an appointee position into a career slot in certain circumstances, but it does require oversight and approval from OPM.

In the Aug. 11 memo to agencies, OPM Acting Director Beth Cobert spelled out the requirements, noting that the agency would continue to review any such proposals, and included “pre-appointment checklists” for both competitive service positions and non-political excepted service positions.

The concern about appointees swiping career federal jobs is an old one. During the 2000 presidential election, then-President Bill Clinton’s OPM Director Janice Lachance warned agency Human Resources officers to be on the lookout for appointees...

Some Advice for Feds During the Presidential Transition: Expect Pushback

Combining common sense with experienced insight, the Senior Executives Association’s Professional Development League has come out with tips for career managers to successfully navigate the presidential transition.

SEA’s first-ever “Handbook on Presidential Transition for Federal Career Executives” delivers 20 pages of orientation on such issues as the role of career executives during a transition and complying with the Vacancies Act. It also outlines new coordinating procedures at the Office of Management and Budget and General Services Administration required by the 2015 Presidential Transitions Improvement Act.

Some examples of the tips managers will find:

“Don’t cling to old ideas.”

“Accept confusion and uncertainty as the new team gets in place and develops its agenda and try to help your career staff and the new team operate through that.”

“Expect pushback until the new team develops trust in you.”

The handbook also contains suggestions for how to coordinate activity with the Government Accountability Office, which is required to give briefings to new officials.

The booklet, accompanied by webinars, also offers handy deadlines. By Sept. 15, for example, acting officers must be designated for vacant non-career positions, and by Nov. 1, agency briefing materials must be finalized.

“For many executives...

Donald Trump Has Great Faith in Federal Bureaucrats

In a major economic address Monday at the Detroit Economic Club, Donald Trump offered up some boilerplate GOP criticism of his Democratic rival: “All Hillary Clinton has to offer,” he said, “is more of the same: more taxes, more regulations, more bureaucrats, more restrictions on American energy and American production.”

Criticism of bureaucrats is nothing new for Trump. Like most other Republican candidates for president, he has been known to dismiss career government employees as impediments to economic growth and effective government. Indeed, talking points distributed to media outlets in advance of Monday’s speech said Trump would promise to "remove bureaucrats who only know how to kill jobs [and] replace them with experts who know how to create jobs."

He didn’t actually do that in the speech, possibly because his staff realized it would be difficult, if not impossible, under today’s civil service rules to keep such a promise. And in fact, what Trump did say in the address showed an unusual amount of faith in the bureaucracy.

Trump said he would “ask each and every federal agency to prepare a list of all of the regulations they impose on Americans which are not necessary, do not...

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