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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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This Guy Definitely Has the Strangest Federal Job

Among the many challenges of space missions is the fact that you can’t just crack a window up there and get some fresh air. That means astronauts have to be very careful about what they bring aboard spacecraft, lest they get stuck with a pungent odor they can’t escape -- and that could literally make them sick.

How do you prevent such a scenario from unfolding? By employing a designated sniffer. In this case, George Aldrich, a NASA veteran who puts his superior sense of smell to work to evaluate items before they are sent to space with astronauts. The Daily Dot reports that includes not only spacecraft parts, but astronauts’ personal items, from bibles to a model ship in a bottle.

Aldrich, who has spent almost 40 years with the space agency, clearly enjoys the limelight. He’s been a regular speaker at schools over the years, where he frequently serves as a judge of “smelly sneaker” contests. He’s also been featured on many science-oriented TV shows, including World’s Strangest:

Now Covering States and Localities, Too!

Throughout the 45 years we’ve been reporting on the business of government at Government Executive (and for the 18 years we’ve been doing so at GovExec.com), the question we probably have been asked more than any other is, “Do you cover state and local government?” Now the answer is, “Yes.”

Our new GovExec State & Local channel focuses on news, information and analysis about innovation at the state, county and local levels. It aims to facilitate the sharing of best practices and new ideas among decision makers who are creating highly effective government programs, policies and institutions for the 21st century. Areas of coverage will include information technology, health care, citizen services, infrastructure, transportation, finance and security.

We’ve got a very talented senior editor heading up the initiative in Michael Grass. He was a founding co-editor of DCist.com, served as deputy managing editor of the New York Observer’s ambitious Politicker.com site (editing posts filed by reporters in 17 states), and managed local news coverage in D.C., Maryland and Virginia for the Huffington Post. (You can read more from him here.)

Mike is building a network of correspondents to provide coverage across the country ...

How To Ruin Your Political Career: Run a Federal Agency

There was a time when running a major federal agency in Washington was a way to raise one’s profile, politically and otherwise, back home. Apparently, that time is no more -- at least in Ohio.

Politico’s MJ Lee reports that Richard Cordray, who currently runs the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, is doing great damage to his political reputation in his home state by spending so much time in Washington serving as the top executive at a critical federal agency that is still getting off the ground.

“In the space of a few years, Cordray has gone from a fast-rising Ohio politician to someone with all the makings of an administration lifer, dug in at a divisive consumer agency that’s still finding its footing in a deeply polarized government,” Lee writes.

Cordray apparently has neglected to spend much time consulting with political operatives back in his home state because he appears to be distracted by actually doing his federal job. He’s only a year into a five-year term, and seems to be seriously considering fulfilling all or most of his commitment. Merely traveling back to Ohio on weekends apparently is not enough.

Of course, it’s possible that ...

What Does Running the VA Have to Do With Selling Soap?

On Monday, President Obama nominated Robert McDonald, former chief executive at Procter & Gamble, to serve as Secretary of Veterans Affairs. The choice was generally greeted warmly.

McDonald, after all, is a West Point graduate and former Army ranger.  And “he knows the key to any successful enterprise is staying focused on the people you’re trying to serve,” Obama said. “Bob is an expert in making organizations better.”

But there are organizations, and then there’s the VA. P&G is a huge company, with 120,000 employees. But that’s not even half the size of the VA. And the VA is in a very different kind of business -- in fact, it’s in several different kinds of business:

  • Running the nation’s largest health care system, including more than 1,700 hospitals, clinics and other care facilities.
  • Overseeing a host of benefits programs for veterans, from disability compensation to home loans.
  • Operating 131 national cemeteries.

Right now, the first of these missions is the burning platform, with the national scandal involving cover-ups of long wait times for appointments at VA medical facilities. But VA’s other units have had their share of management issues in recent years. The ...

Treasury Posts Proof That Obama Kept Promise to Give Up 5 Percent of His Salary

In April 2013, President Obama pledged to give 5 percent of his salary back to the Treasury to show solidarity with federal workers subject to unpaid furloughs as a result of the sequester. Last week, Treasury confirmed that Obama is squared up on his end. He is paid in full.

In an under-the-radar move, the department confirmed the checks in the final of three posts Friday on the "Treasury Notes" blog. The post mentions that Treasury has been publishing the checks to the blog to answer "public requests" for information. Treasury posted PDF images of the checks from the account of "B and M Obama" and the subsequent receipts.

The first family made the payments in the form of seven checks of just under $3,000 each between March and September 2013. The checks total $20,000, and are made out to "United States Treasury." The comment field on each says "Return to General Fund."

Obama was among many public officials who pledged salary solidarity with feds in the wake of the sequester. 

Obama is paid $400,000 a year in salary.