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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.

Captain Make America Great Again: A Superhero Movie for the Time of Trump

The battle over the role of government in providing security and regulating the activities of its citizens isn’t just playing out on the presidential campaign trail. This weekend, in case you didn’t notice, it came to your local multiplex in the form of Captain America: Civil War.

In the film (warning: spoilers follow), Steve Rogers, the titular Captain America, becomes the de facto leader of a subgroup of the Avengers who take a go-it-alone approach to defending the United States, declaring that they shouldn’t have to submit to the authority of international or even national bodies, because those institutions are prone to fecklessness and corruption.

It is, I would venture to say, the perfect superhero movie for the time of Trump, an era in which the political discourse is dominated by a man who expresses contempt for international restrictions on military activity, argues that the electoral process is “rigged” and openly brags of buying off politicians.  

By this I don’t mean to suggest that Captain America and his band of followers are Trumpian in their politics (or even politically motivated at all). But they share an animating belief that political leaders are weak and unwilling to...

Singed by the Benghazi Dispute, This Ex-Fed Is Laying Low

When the House Select Committee on Benghazi releases its long-awaited “final report” this summer, one former State Department official may find himself again dragged into the public eye.

Raymond Maxwell, who in 2012 was director of regional affairs at State’s Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs, went down as a bit player in the politically radioactive saga of why four Americans died at the U.S. compound in Benghazi, Libya.

He was one of four State Department officials placed on administrative leave while the Hillary Clinton-appointed Accountability Review Board investigated what went wrong on Sept. 11, 2012. His case was taken up by conservative publications and Republicans in Congress after he reported that Clinton aides Cheryl Mills and Jake Sullivan checked in on a weekend session he attended at which Benghazi-related documents were being sorted. Maxwell said the purpose of the sorting was to cull any that might prove “embarrassing” to the secretary. His efforts to report concerns to higher-ups were ignored.

Maxwell then filed a complaint accusing Clinton aides of orchestrating his transfer out of a job after a classified version of the Review Board report recommended some staffing changes affecting officials who may have failed to thoroughly read...

Obama to ‘Selfless’ Feds: I Appreciate You, Even if No One Else Does

President Obama wants federal employees to know that even if no one else supports them, he does.

In a presidential proclamation formally establishing 2016’s Public Service Recognition Week, the nation’s top federal worker noted the sacrifice of his fellow government employees. He added their jobs are not made easier by the consistent scapegoating of civil servants.

“Even in the toughest of circumstances, including a politics that does not always fully recognize the value of their work, our public servants -- often at great personal sacrifice -- continue striving to build a better country and to bring lasting change to the lives of ordinary people across America,” Obama said. “These selfless individuals tackle great challenges facing our country.”

The president noted that 85 percent of the federal workforce is located outside of Washington, D.C., and that federal employees are experts on a range of subjects. 

“Civil servants demonstrate resolve and inspire optimism in sectors throughout our country,” he said. “They are engineers and educators, military service members and social workers, and their individual and collective contributions drive us forward on the path toward an ever brighter tomorrow.”

Absent from Obama’s message were any references -- included in last year’s...

Cruz-Fiorina Ticket United in Cutting Federal Jobs, Pay

Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, saw the window of opportunity for him to become president closing, and decided to take one last shot.

That shot, it turned out, was aimed directly at federal employees.

Cruz tapped former Hewlett Packard executive and 2016 presidential candidate Carly Fiorina. Throughout her campaign, Fiorina made reforming the federal workforce a centerpiece of her platform. She discussed the need to wade through bureaucracy and cut federal jobs in most of her stump speeches, and promised to reform the civil service during debates.

Fiorina has even spun her laying off 30,000 HP employees as a positive, arguing it provided her the experience she needed to cut the federal workforce. She spoke repeatedly of the need to bring more accountability to federal bureaucrats, as well as the need to change the way they are compensated.

“The government needs to get off seniority systems and go to meritocracies as well,” Fiorina said in May. “Pay for performance.” During her unsuccessful 2010 run for Senate in California, Fiorina pledged to fight for “obvious reforms” such as “limiting federal salaries and benefits.”

Fiorina has touted zero-based budgeting, saying in a debate it would enable the American people to “know where...

Employees Can Be Involved in Armed Robberies as Long as It's On Their Own Time, VA Says

Perhaps David Shulkin just assumed a Veterans Affairs Department employee would be fired for playing a role in an armed robbery.

VA’s undersecretary for health told the House Veterans' Affairs Committee last week that Elizabeth Rivera, a worker at a facility in Puerto Rico who was involved in an armed robbery last year, was no longer with the department.

“So [she is] on paid leave?” asked Rep. Tim Huelskamp, R-Kan.

Shulkin replied that was not his understanding, saying he believed Rivera was “not an employee of the VA.” The undersecretary conceded, however, he may have been incorrect and promised to let the committee know if he was.

On Friday, Shulkin made good on that promise, clarifying Rivera was reinstated to work as a clerk at the Puerto Rico facility “following administrative processes and court approval.” The undersecretary made his clarification in a public statement.

“I have clarified my statement, and will be formally responding to the committee,” Shulkin said, “but it is equally important to me that I provide the facts and set the record straight for our veterans, employees and the general public who entrust us with the care of the nation’s veterans and who expect us...

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