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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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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.

Obama: Vast Majority of Federal Employees Are Not Boneheads

President Obama declared Thursday that 99 percent of federal employees are not boneheads.

"Are there some federal workers who do some boneheaded things? Absolutely,” Obama said at a town hall meeting in Minneapolis, Politico reported

The president recalled something that former Defense Secretary Robert Gates told him: “One thing you should know, Mr. President, is that at any given moment on any given day, somebody in the federal government is screwing up.” That, said Obama, is "is true because there are 2 million employees … If 99 percent of the folks are doing the right thing and only 1 percent aren’t, that’s still a lot of people.”

Gates' remarks clearly made an impression on Obama. In Sept. 2012, he also noted publicly that "at any moment in the federal government, there will be people who do dumb things."

The 1 percent principle of boneheadedness probably puts the federal government on par with any other large organization. Of course, it also means that at any particular point in time, in some corner of government, somebody is doing something like pooping in the hallway.

Why Issa Says He Stage-Directed the IRS Chief's Oath

In Monday’s rare evening hearing on lost emails at the Internal Revenue Service, House Oversight panel Chairman Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., startled many in the tension-filled room and around the country with his critique of Internal Revenue Commissioner John Koskinen’s posture in holding up his hand to be sworn in.

“A little higher, thank you,” a furrow-browed Issa said in the manner of, say, Steven Spielberg.

On Fox News Wednesday night, Issa was asked by host Megyn Kelly to explain. She told Issa, “some said that made you look arrogant.”

Here the explanation, according to the transcript:

ISSA: In [Koskinen’s] previous testimony he had held it down, and, you know, we all understand whether you're looking years back at the tobacco hearings or anything else, you raise your right hand. All I really asked [was] that he raise it to a normal level. I only asked it because in fact at the Ways and Means Committee earlier he had sort of held it down and it seemed a little petty and silly. We've had witnesses who have stepped away from the other Wednesday [hearing] and so on. We just ask them to do the routine ...

EPA Employees Told to Stop Pooping in the Hallway

Environmental Protection Agency workers have done some odd things recently.

Contractors built secret man caves in an EPA warehouse, an employee pretended to work for the CIA to get unlimited vacations and one worker even spent most of his time on the clock looking at pornography.

It appears, however, that a regional office has reached a new low: Management for Region 8 in Denver, Colo., wrote an email earlier this year to all staff in the area pleading with them to stop inappropriate bathroom behavior, including defecating in the hallway.  

In the email, obtained by Government Executive, Deputy Regional Administrator Howard Cantor mentioned “several incidents” in the building, including clogging the toilets with paper towels and “an individual placing feces in the hallway” outside the restroom.

Confounded by what to make of this occurrence, EPA management “consulted” with workplace violence “national expert” John Nicoletti, who said that hallway feces is in fact a health and safety risk. He added the behavior was “very dangerous” and the individuals responsible would “probably escalate” their actions.


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“Management is taking this situation very seriously and will take whatever actions are necessary to identify and prosecute these individuals,” Cantor wrote. He ...