Fedblog FedblogFedblog
Government Executive Editor in Chief Tom Shoop, along with other editors and staff correspondents, look at the federal bureaucracy from the outside in.

A Tell-All About Working At Freddie Mac During the Housing Crisis

When Congress slogged through the post-recession enactment of the 2010 Dodd-Frank Financial Reform Act, lawmakers basically punted on how to handle the government-sponsored enterprises known as Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae.

Both were taken into emergency conservatorship by the Treasury Department (costing taxpayers some $187.5 billion before they returned a profit to the Treasury). But a stalemate over the next step continues. Some conservatives press for privatization, and others for greater transparency. Some liberals favor re-routing the GSE profits into underserved housing markets.

Just released from Johns Hopkins University Press is perhaps the first juicy insider account of an executive’s experience during the 2008 financial meltdown at one of those private mortgage funding companies that many think of as quasi-government agencies.

» Get the best federal news and ideas delivered right to your inbox. Sign up here.

 “Days of Slaughter: The Fall of Freddie Mac and Why it Could Happen Again” is a non-technical narrative and diagnosis of capitalist greed by Susan Wharton Gates, a 19-year Freddie Mac employee who resigned mid-recession as vice president of public policy (she now teaches business and public administration at Georgetown and Virginia Tech universities).

Her blow-by-blow account of Freddie Mac’s boardroom...

A Chemist at a Federal Agency Wins Miss USA

A federal employee working at the Nuclear Regulatory Commission was named Miss USA on Sunday evening, and pledged to spend her year with the crown encouraging more women to join government and eventually, agency leadership ranks.

Kara McCullough, a 25-year-old chemist in NRC’s Office of Nuclear Security and Incident Response, represented Washington, D.C., in the annual competition. McCullough grew up in the federal ranks as a military brat, with her father serving as a Navy chief petty officer. In addition to her NRC employment, McCullough volunteers annually at a science fair hosted by the Food and Drug Administration as a judge.

McCullough said she would be an ambassador to bring more women into government science, technology, engineering and mathematics positions. She noted that in her experience in federal service, women are often underrepresented.

» Get the best federal news and ideas delivered right to your inbox. Sign up here.

"Personally, I want to see more women possessing leadership positions in private and government energy and health sciences agencies; not just conducting laboratory research,” McCullough said after her victory. “As a woman scientist in the government, I have witnessed and been in many meetings where the ratio of men to...

EPA’s Revised Agenda

Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt made news on April 13 when he visited coal miners at the Harvey Mine in Sycamore, Pa., where he announced a new “Back to Basics Agenda” for the agency. Within days, a poster showing Pruitt with the miners went on display in the lobby of EPA headquarters in Washington’s Federal Triangle with the new agenda: “Protecting the environment; engaging with partners; and creating sensible regulations for economic growth.”

The new battle plan “means returning EPA to its core mission,” Pruitt said at the Pennsylvania rally. “The coal industry was nearly devastated by years of regulatory overreach, but with new direction from President Trump, we are helping to turn things around for these miners and for many other hard working Americans.”

Though few EPA employees would be surprised by the post-election shift in focus—Trump wants to cut the agency’s budget by 31 percent and lay off 3,200 employees—the poster hasn't exactly raised morale among staff, according to insiders.

The notion that EPA would be bringing jobs back to the coal industry—a major pollutant in decline largely because of competition from natural gas—is tough to stomach for people...

It’s April Madness at the IRS

Internal Revenue Commissioner John Koskinen on Wednesday gave a National Press Club talk on the “April Madness” that is tax filing season for his employees processing form 1040s from the nation’s 152 million filers. Below are some of his eye-opening numbers:

$74 million. Amount in refunds issued so far out of 93 million 2017 returns received (average amount: $2,900)

87 percent. Share of taxpayers who file electronically

3 million. Number of 1040 forms completed by hand

500 million. Visits to IRS.gov in 2016

6 million. Visits to IRS.gov in one recent day

40 million. Number of times the IRS2Go smartphone app has been downloaded

63 million. Number of calls to IRS call centers last year

8 million. Number of letters received IRS received last year

1 million. Number of malicious cyberattacks on IRS daily

46 percent. Reduction in identify theft victims reported in 2016 compared with 2015

$6.5 billion. Amount in fraudulent refund claims on 1 million returns the IRS prevented last year

$290 million. Extra appropriations funding in 2016, which allowed IRS to hire 1,000 temps

$239 million. Amount President Trump in March proposed cutting from IRS

17,000. Number of employees IRS...

Stephen Colbert: Agencies Should Stop Thinking of Americans As 'Customers'

The news that President Donald Trump named his son-in-law Jared Kushner to head the new Office of American Innovation gave the Late Show's Stephen Colbert plenty of material to work with during a segment Monday night. Kushner already has a full plate in the White House managing the Middle East peace process, he noted, taking a swipe at the administration:

The government desperately needs an overhaul. I mean, somebody keeps putting totally unqualified people in charge of really important stuff and that's gotta stop.

Kushner's inherited family's business success suggests the new office should more accurately be called "The Bureau of Obvious Nepotism," Colbert joked:

You know he's got great business ideas. Like being born into a wealthy real estate family or marrying into a wealthy real estate family. Why hasn't the government tried that?

But it was another aspect of the predictably anti-Trump monologue that might give government workers pause. Colbert took issue with Kushner's statement that the office would “achieve successes and efficiencies for our customers, who are the citizens.” While government agencies themselves (under the Obama administration no less) have long been thinking of citizens as customers (see countless examples...