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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.

Navigating a 'Difficult Triangle' of Security Clearance Interests

Weeks after leaving his post as the White House administrator for federal procurement policy, Joe Jordan returned to Capitol Hill on Tuesday to shed light on the Obama administration’s coming review of federal security clearance procedures launched in response to September’s Navy Yard shootings, and due in February.

Jordan -- now public sector president at the private online auction firm Fedbid -- praised the working group of officials from the Office of Management and Budget, the Office of Personnel Management and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence as “the best review group in government.” Its recommendations will reflect a “difficult triangle” that balances the need for the government to conduct its annual $1 billion worth of pre-hire and refresher employee background checks in a way that is high-quality and timely but also at a reasonable cost, he said. Perfection in security checks, though always the goal, is not easy.

“We’re getting to a place where reciprocity among agencies can be used to drive efficiencies, and agencies are asking about costs,” Jordan said. One emerging ethical issue, he noted, is whether an evaluator may fairly use evidence of derogatory information taken from photos a job applicant posted on ...

Storify: GovExec Live-tweets the State of the Union

In addition to liveblogging, the GovExec.com staff was also tweeting the most social State of the Union in the history of Twitter. The day began with Obama announcing that he will raise the minimum wage for workers under federal contracts, and his speech bore that out. The address included references to government programs and partnerships with private industry. The president called for engagement from Americans, saying "Let’s make this a year of action."

He also pledged to issue more executive orders to accomplish his goals:  "So wherever and whenever I can take steps without legislation to expand opportunity for more American families, that’s what I’m going to do."

Read GovExec's real-time coverage of the speech below.

State of the Union: A Call to (Limited) Action

10:30 p.m. When it comes to exercising the levers of government, this was a speech that was long on promises of action, with President Obama pledging multiple times to exercise his executive authority to spur federal measures he deems essential. At the same time, as he has done before, Obama was careful to position himself as a battler against government inefficiency. (The speech included one reference to "red tape" and separate pledges to attack "bureaucracy" and avoid "bureaucratic" solutions.) As has become customary, Obama gave several nods to military service members and diplomats serving overseas. And he included a few specific references to federal management and workforce issues, with pledges to raise wages for lower-paid federal contractors and to continue efforts to cut the backlog of veterans benefits claims.

10:14 p.m. A standing ovation for cutting the backlog of veterans benefits applications (and vets in general, of course): "As this time of war draws to a close, a new generation of heroes returns to civilian life.  We’ll keep slashing that backlog so our veterans receive the benefits they’ve earned, and our wounded warriors receive the health care -- including the mental health care -- that they ...

EPA’s ‘Moonlighting Spy:’ I Guess Greed Made Me Do It

A newly released transcript of a congressional deposition of John Beale, the Environmental Protection Agency attorney sentenced to 32 months in prison for falsely claiming his workplace absences were due to a moonlighting gig at the CIA, is not a totally satisfying read.

Beale was sentenced Dec. 18 for defrauding the government of nearly $900,000 in misreported hours that were spent on travel overseas and at his Massachusetts vacation home. The punishment: 32 months in federal prison, two years’ probation, 100 hours of community service, $886,000 in restitution, and another $507,000 in forfeiture.

The transcript, released with approval by both parties on the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, shows Beale speaking admiringly of the smarts of his onetime boss, current EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy, who had tapped him to be in the office more often to help her run the Office of Air and Radiation. (McCarthy, at the time assistant administrator for the Office of Air and Radiation, never directly quizzed him about his bogus CIA story but did revoke a bonus she decided was contrary to policy.)

Before McCarthy, the EPA general counsel and, eventually, its inspector general realized the fraud, Beale said he had ...

Making Newsletters Mobile-Friendly

If you’re among the hundreds of thousands of people who subscribe to one of our e-newsletters, you probably have noticed a difference in their appearance lately. We hope you’ve found that the change is for the better, especially if you’re among the rapidly growing number of subscribers who are doing their reading on a mobile device.

We’ve redesigned our newsletters to streamline their appearance and make sure that they display well not only on computer screens, but on smartphones and tablets, too. Over the past year, we’ve seen a big surge not only in our overall online traffic, but particularly in the number of people reading GovExec articles on mobile devices. As a result, we’ve also seen an increase in requests for newsletters that are more mobile-friendly.

We’ve responded by updating the format of the newsletters in a way that maximizes readability on devices ranging from desktop computers to smartphones. After experimenting with selected newsletters in recent months, we launched the redesign across all of our newsletters -- ranging from GovExec Today to Workforce Week -- last week.

We hope you like the change, and welcome your feedback.

Click here to see our full roster ...