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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.

On ‘Parks and Recreation,’ the Joke’s on the Feds

NBC’s Parks and Recreation, arguably the most pro-government sitcom in the history of television, is going out with a bang this year. And in the process, intentionally or not, it is presenting the federal government in a hilarious -- if not always accurate -- fashion.

For those who haven’t been following the show, its central character, Leslie Knope, has made the jump from local government in Pawnee, Ind., to a position at the National Park Service. On last night’s episode, Leslie got an opportunity to move even higher up the ranks at the Interior Department:

There’s a lot to unpack in that 30 seconds of video. Let’s take a closer look.

“We’d like to promote you to deputy director of operations at Interior,” says the official who offers her the job. But there is no deputy director of operations at Interior. (There is a deputy secretary, who serves as the department’s chief operating officer. Maybe that’s the job they had in mind. But that’s quite a leap from a Park Service regional office position.)

“You’d have to move to D.C.,” the official says, “and you’d have to complete the Senior ...

Tales of a Government That Works

We’re very pleased to present a new free Government Executive ebook on innovative efforts in the federal sector. Called Making Government Work, it focuses on five stories:

  • Interagency Cooperation: How six agencies came together to help veterans transition to civilian life.
  • New Business Models: The Postal Service wants to deliver your groceries.
  • Data Management: With analysts drowning in information, NSA built a life raft.
  • Measuring Performance: Agencies are applying private sector standards to federal missions.
  • Putting Customers First: Americans increasingly want government services delivered with the touch of a computer.

Each of the stories in the ebook highlights how agencies are beating the odds to fulfill their missions in challenging times.

Download your copy of Making Government Work here

Jeb Bush Is No Anti-Government Crusader

This week, National Journal’s Ron Fournier scored an exclusive interview with Jeb Bush after the would-be Republican presidential contender addressed the Detroit Economic Club. It turned out that the latest Bush to weigh a White House run is pretty animated on the subject of the role of government -- and doesn’t seem to share the shrink-it-at-all-costs view that has dominated the GOP in recent years.

Bush expressed the view that government could learn a lot from the emerging “shared economy,” in which firms such as Uber and Airbnb are rapidly growing. “In the shared economy, how does government work for people? It doesn't,” Bush told Fournier.

But the former Florida governor was quick to add that the solution isn’t simply getting government out of the picture. “The answer isn't no government," he said. "The answer is smarter, effective government."

“I think the challenge is how do we move to a 21st-century government to deal with 21st-century opportunities and challenges?" Bush added.

Overhauling the way government operates in the economy “should not be an ideological question," Bush told Fournier. Rather, he said, it’s about “just recognizing the way world works." He did add, however, that “smaller ...

When Obama’s Veto Threat Is Serious

White House veto threats, which come in the form of “Statements of Administration Policy” sent to reporters by the Office of Management and Budget, usually adhere to a standard format.

“If the president were presented with this legislation, his senior advisers would recommend that he veto this bill,” goes the language used for years, most recently with respect to House-passed bills to restrict abortion, build the Keystone XL pipeline, and delay Homeland Security Department funding in protest of President Obama’s executive orders on immigration.

Such a construction has two effects: It confirms that the final decision resides with the president himself, and it keeps the chief executive’s options open until the bill actually arrives on his desk.

But in the run-up to Tuesday’s House vote to repeal the Affordable Care Act (its 56th such vote), the Obama team’s veto warning deployed slightly blunter verbiage: “If the president were presented with H.R. 596, he would veto it.”

OMB did not respond to Government Executive inquiries as to whether there is a strategy in the subtle change.

But on Tuesday, when the White House issued its statement against the Unfunded Mandates Information and Transparency Act of 2015 ...

The Government Will See You Now

When was the last time you interacted with a federal agency to conduct some personal business? If your experience was anything like that of most Americans trying to enroll in a federal program or fulfill some civic duty—clarify a tax issue, update public records—it probably wasn’t great. A report last week by the American Customer Satisfaction Index shows that we are increasingly dissatisfied with the service we receive from government employees and websites.

“Only Internet service providers have a lower customer satisfaction score,” according to the index, which tracks 43 industries. Think about that. More people seem to find it easier to dispute a claim with their health insurer than deal with a federal agency.  

It’s no surprise then that the Obama administration wants to make agencies more responsive to the people they exist to serve. Specifically, the White House says it is committed to “delivering world class customer service:”

The Administration is continuing its efforts to improve the quality, timeliness, and effectiveness of Federal services by developing standards, practices, and tools for agencies to improve their customer service. We have established the Federal Customer Service Awards program, which will recognize individuals and teams who provide ...