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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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John McCain Goes Straight Talk Express on Defense Personnel Reform

Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., had some nice things to say about Defense Department employees during a recent event at a Washington think tank. But he also had a few choice words for the federal government’s hiring process and the Pentagon bureaucracy.

“Our nation is blessed by the very hardworking [people] -- both military and civilian personnel -- working in the Department of Defense,” the chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee said at the Bipartisan Policy Center in opening remarks before a June 29 discussion on Defense personnel reform. “These are patriotic Americans who wake up every day to do difficult jobs often foregoing easier careers and more lucrative opportunities because they care about the mission of keeping America safe.”

Then, the gloves came off.

“The question is whether our military is able to recruit and retain so many excellent Americans because of its personnel system, or in spite of it,” said the former Republican presidential nominee. “I’m concerned that all too often it’s the latter.” McCain, who isn’t known for pulling punches, went on to call USAJOBS – the website federal job candidates use to apply for nearly every job in government – an “abysmal failure.” To be fair...

OPM Tells Feds How to Turn Off Those Sex Offender Notifications

When more than 20 million individuals had their personal information breached in a hack of data maintained by the Office of Personnel Management in 2015, the government decided it would make things right by offering a suite of protection services to the victims.

The benefits included the normal perks for hack victims: credit monitoring, identity theft insurance and restoration, and other ongoing observations for fraud. They also included, for those who received notifications their information was breached and signed up for the protection services, regular email updates on when registered sex offenders moved near their home addresses.

OPM and ID Experts, the company selected to provide the services to the impacted population, have not reported any instances of hackers using the information stolen during the breaches for nefarious purposes. While hack victims enrolled in the package would receive alerts for any suspicious credit activity or potential identity theft -- even if it the incident does not involve the OPM breach -- many of the notifications sent out so far have been sex offender alerts.

The process for turning those reports off is not as simple as a click of the mouse; in a recent update to the Frequently Asked Questions section of...

How Well Do You Really Know the Presidential Candidates?

Do you remember which presidential candidate threatened to “beat [another candidate’s] rear end” on stage? Or which one accused the Syrian president of invading . . . Syria? Like others, we’ve tried to bury the memories. But a new quiz over at the Atlantic has resurrected those dark moments and rekindled our fears for the republic.  

The quiz (They Said What?) is embedded in a fascinating piece by Jonathan Rauch best summed up by its title: “How American Politics Went Insane.” Spoiler alert: It’s going to get worse before it gets better.

For federal employees inclined to consider politics as something other than a spectator sport, we’ll soon offer our own quiz on the Hatch Act—the law that governs feds’ involvement in political activities. Following the 2016 presidential election may cause you to lose your mind. But failing to follow the Hatch Act could cause you to lose your job.   

George Voinovich, the Rare Politician Who Fought for Better Management

Largely lost in the terrible news out of Orlando this weekend was the passing of a central figure in the early 21st century world of federal management: former Sen. George Voinovich, R-Ohio.

Voinovich, a two-term senator, was a rare political bird: a lawmaker who cared about how government agencies are managed, and especially about the people who work in them.

“He'd talk with anyone who would listen about how the federal government needed to shore up its workforce because impending retirements were going to rob it of a lot of talent,” wrote Stephen Koff in a Cleveland.com obituary.

"We need to stop bashing people who work in government," Voinovich said in 2001. "They are the best-motivated workers we have when they are given the tools, compensation and empowerment to get the job done."

Voinovich’s commitment to government management and workforce issues pre-dated his time in the Senate. As governor of Ohio, he instituted a program called Quality Service Through Partnership to promote labor-management cooperation in the state’s operations.

In 2011, after Voinovich left the Senate, Andrew Richardson, his staff director on the Senate Subcommittee on the Oversight of Government Management, and John Salamone, a staffer on...

It’s Not True That No One in Congress Takes Government Performance Seriously

Henry Cuellar is more than a little delighted to talk about government performance and customer service. After all, it’s not every day the Texas Democrat is asked to expound on a subject that’s clearly near and dear to his heart. And since he’s not only the driving force behind the 2010 Government Performance and Results Modernization Act, but a proud holder of a Ph.D. in government from the University of Texas, it’s not hard to get Cuellar to open up on efforts to improve federal agencies’ service to the public.

At the Government Executive/Nextgov Customer Experience Summit Tuesday, Cuellar made it clear he spends more time than the average person poking around on Performance.gov, the Obama administration’s repository of government performance data. (“You should get familiar with it,” he urged the audience. “Whenever you can’t sleep at night, go into Performance.gov and see how we’re doing.”)

Cuellar said the Office of Management and Budget and agencies have “done good work” in implementing GPRMA. He noted, for example, that OMB has reported $2 billion in savings under the contract consolidation effort known as category management.

Now, Cuellar said, government needs...

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