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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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Why You May Have Noticed Beefed Up Security at Your Federal Office

Noticed more security guards in your federal office lately?

You’re not paranoid.

Homeland Security Department Secretary Jeh Johnson announced this week the agency would ramp up security at federal buildings in response to the terror attacks in Paris last week. Johnson emphasized that there is no “specific, credible intelligence” of any threat on U.S. soil, and his decision is purely precautionary.

Public threats by terrorist organizations, however, have focused on “aircraft, military personnel, and government installations and civilian personnel,” he said.

Johnson has asked the Federal Protective Service to enhance its presence at government buildings in Washington, D.C., and other “major cities and locations around the country.” The secretary declined to elaborate on the exact locations, calling them law enforcement sensitive. He added sites of focus will shift and be reevaluated regularly.

The enhanced security builds on a similar DHS initiative launched in October, Johnson said, when a gunman in Canada shot and killed government personnel at a war memorial and the Parliament building.

“We urge Americans to continue to travel, attend public events, and freely associate with others,” Johnson said. “However, given world events, this is a time for heightened vigilance by federal, state and local ...

What if the Problem Isn’t the Rules, but the People?

One school of thought holds that the rules and regulations governing the federal acquisition process are so byzantine that the government simply can’t get access to the latest technology in a timely fashion.

But what if the problem isn’t the rules, but the people who must work within them?

At an event in Washington on Tuesday, the National Academy of Public Administration and ICF International unveiled the results of their Federal Leaders Digital Insight Study. Among the subjects covered in the survey of senior federal leaders was the technology acquisition system.

The study found that while there certainly are problems in buying and implementing the latest technology in government, “many federal leaders believe that these problems are the result of execution of the procurement process rather than regulatory requirements.” While nearly 40 percent of the more than 500 survey respondents had some influence in the procurement process, only one of them cited problems with the Federal Acquisition Regulation in written comments.

“The FAR isn’t always the main hurdle,” said Beth Cobert, deputy director for management at the Office of Management and Budget, at the event. “The processes really need to be tackled.”

“One hundred page [requests for ...

Clapper and L 'il Bub

Who knew the director of national intelligence had a soft spot for The Most Amazing Cat on the Planet? When our friends at the D Brief wrote this morning that “Jim Clapper talked about his big trip to North Korea last week with some amazing details,” they weren’t kidding. We highly recommend that anyone interested in the hermit kingdom, U.S. intelligence or cybersecurity read the text of Clapper’s fascinating remarks at Fordham University Jan. 7, where he addressed the International Conference on Cybersecurity.

Clapper spoke at length about his extraordinary mission to Pyongyang last November to win the release of two American prisoners. He also discussed steps companies should take to enhance their cybersecurity. Our favorite takeaway, though, was this gem:

Two years ago, I didn’t know what a “Tumblr” was. Two weeks ago, Tumblr featured our site, the IC’s site, as one of a select few “Big in 2014” sites for their end of year review. We were right up there with “L’il Bub.”

I’m here to tell you, sharing the stage with a famous cat—on the Internet—that’s how you know you’ve arrived. 

The Civil Servant Who Didn't Show Up to Work for 24 Years

One of the big criticisms of the U.S. civil service system is that it's simply too hard to fire poor-performing employees. But compared to India, it's apparently a breeze. 

Reuters reported this week on the case of A.K. Verma, an employee of India's Central Public Works Department, who recently was fired for failing to show up for work.

"He went on seeking extension of leave, which was not sanctioned, and defied directions to report to work," the Indian government said in a statement.

That was in December 1990.

You read that right: Verma skipped out on his job for 24 years. In 1992, he was found guilty of "willful absence from duty," but it took another 22 years before he was finally dismissed. India's civil service protections are considered some of the most stringent in the world. 

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Reuters reported, has sought to crack down on "rampant absenteeism" by making government employees check in for work each day using a fingerprint scanner. 

In Search of Heroes of the Public Service

Do you think it’s about time that outstanding public servants get some recognition for the work they do? Well, here’s your chance to do something about it.

Nominations for this year’s Service to America Medals, sponsored by the Partnership for Public Service, are closing soon--Jan. 16, to be exact.

All career civilian federal employees are eligible for the honor. Medals are awarded in eight categories:

  • Career Achievement
  • Call to Service
  • Citizen Services
  • Homeland Security and Law Enforcement
  • Management Excellence
  • National Security and International Affairs
  • Science and Environment
  • Federal Employee of the Year

Honorees are selected, the Partnership for Public Service says, based on the “impact of their work on meeting the needs of the nation, on-the-job innovation, and commitment to public service.”

Thirty finalists for the awards will be recognized at a Capitol Hill event this spring. Winners will be honored in the fall at a gala dinner in Washington.   

Click here to submit a Service to America Medal nomination