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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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Agency’s ‘Technical Competence and Compassion’ Protect Retirement for Millions

Josh Gotbaum’s final day as director of the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corp. was timed to coincide with the 40th anniversary of the landmark law that created the agency, the 1974 Employee Retirement Income Security Act.

In a Tuesday email to his staff of 2,300, Gotbaum, appointed by President Obama and confirmed by the Senate in 2010, praised the agency’s “special combination of technical competence and compassion.” 

He singled out four chief accomplishments for PBGC under his tenure:

  • The preservation of American Airlines and its multiple pension plans
  • Outreach to stakeholders, including Congress
  • Improvements in retirement security that go beyond defined benefit plans
  • Progress in grooming a new generation of management

“Much more remains to be done,” Gotbaum wrote. “Absent congressional action this year, multiemployer plans affecting millions will probably fail. Absent more flexibility for plans and their sponsors, many more will decide not to offer pensions, leaving responsibility for retirement security in the hands of individuals who are often the ones least able to assure it.” 

His departure, announced in July, also came after the agency posted a week of blog items detailing highlights of PBGC history. Until Obama names his replacement, the director’s duties ...

Smithsonian's Panda Cub Celebrates First Birthday

What do you get the panda cub who has almost everything? The National Zoo gave its cub a traditional Chinese celebration and, more importantly, a cake.

In conjunction with the Embassy of the People’s Republic of China, the Smithsonian's National Zoo feted its prized cub Bao Bao Saturday morning with a modified Zhuazhou. In the traditional Zhuazhou, objects are placed in front of the child and whichever object the child chooses will determine the child's future skills and life path.

In Bao Bao's case, zoo staff placed three posters in her enclosure with images of peaches (a Chinese symbol of longevity), bamboo (health) and pomegranates (fertility) painted on them respectively.

Bao Bao chose the peaches poster first. Zoo officials said in a press release that this means she will live "a long life as an ambassador for panda conservation," as per tradition.


Chinese Ambassador Cui Tiankai watched near the bamboo poster.


Bao Bao ended her Zhuazhou by playing by the pomegranate poster.

After the ceremony, Bao Bao was given a panda-friendly cake made by the zoo's nutrition department featuring her favorite flavors.

The tiers are made of frozen diluted apple juice and were dyed varying ...

Is Pentagon’s ‘Security Cooperation’ Office Too Cooperative With Israel?

A recent Wall Street Journal front-pager with a provocative headline “Israel Outflanks White House” threw limelight on a little known office within the Pentagon.

With combat raging in Gaza between Hamas and Israeli troops, the newspaper reported complaints from the State Department and the White House that the Pentagon was bypassing them in rushing arms to the embattled U.S. ally at a time when Secretary of State John Kerry was hoping to use the missiles and ammunition as leverage in seeking a ceasefire.

“The Pentagon's Defense Security Cooperation Agency, or DSCA, was about to release an initial batch of the Hellfires, according to Israeli and congressional officials,” the Jerusalem-based reporter wrote. “It was immediately put on hold by the Pentagon, and top officials at the White House instructed the DSCA, the U.S. military's European Command and other agencies to consult with policy makers at the White House and the State Department before approving any additional requests.”

The Defense Security Cooperation Agency, run by Vice Adm. Joseph Rixey, is tasked, according to its mission statement, to “lead, resource, and educate the Defense Security Cooperation community to shape, refine, and execute innovative security solutions for partners in support ...

10 Insane Things the Pentagon Gave to Local Law Enforcement

The Department of Defense Excess Property Program (1033) has seen a lot of criticism lately, as news surfaces about how local police departments are using the Pentagon's extras. Pentagon equipment used by the St. Louis County Police in Ferguson, Missouri -- the scene of riots following the shooting of Michael Brown -- includes multiple $47,000 trucks and scores of military rifles. The New York Times highlighted the program and produced an interactive graphic to show the flow of weapons from Defense to police. According to the Times, the program started as a countermeasure to high crime in the 1990s.

Using data obtained under the Freedom of Information Act and covering 2006-2014, we looked into the type and cost of equipment that local law enforcement has been receiving from the Pentagon. Items ranged from aircraft (some costing over $5 million each) to screws and washers (36 cents each). Most of the equipment filtering down to local law enforcement will not surprise the average citizen -- mostly rifles, handguns and related equipment -- but we found a lot of questionable line items.

1. 240 pair of "DRAWERS,EXTREME COLD WEATHER" for a total cost of $1,770.65. San Diego County, California.


La Jolla ...

'Curiosity' Leads Man to Steal Federal Explosives During a Camping Trip

Theft of federal property isn't always the most logical practice, but a man in Wyoming took the act to a new high (low?) last year when he stole more than 500 pounds of Forest Service explosives while camping.

Budd James Nesius, 33, pleaded guilty to charges of possession of stolen explosives in federal court last week. “I guess curiosity got the best of me, and I took it way too far,” Nesius said in court.

In April 2013, Nesius was out with friends on a camping trip and happened upon a bunker on Forest Service property. According to The Casper Star-Tribune, the area is marked by signs noting the explosives in the bunker.

These signs apparently gave Nesius an idea.

Nesius told his friend he intended to steal the explosives. He returned later with bolt cutters, cut the locks and loaded 10 boxes of explosives and 3,936 feet of detonation cord into the back of his truck, [Assistant U.S. Attorney Bryan] Whittaker said.

According to court records, prosecutors said Nesius kept the explosives in a travel trailer for weeks and tried, unsuccessfully, to sell them. As soon as the Forest Service discovered the explosives were missing, another ...