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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.

Feds to Festival: Give Us Ice Cream and Air Conditioning

Burning Man, the annual no-holds-barred festival of freedom and artistic expression in the Nevada desert, has a rather interesting relationship with government, and the federal government in particular. And that relationship has gotten a lot more interesting in the past few days.

Burning Man thrives on an ethos of self-governance, but the Interior Department’s Bureau of Land Management has, throughout the event’s history, played a rather substantial role in issuing and enforcing regulations regarding its use of federal lands. This year, BLM officials have apparently decided that they need some creature comforts in order to effectively fulfill their obligations in overseeing Burning Man’s festivities in such a remote location.

Last week, the Reno Gazette-Journal reported that BLM officials had demanded that Burning Man organizers construct a separate compound for 160 agency staffers for the duration of the event. And not just any kind of compound, but one with amenities including air conditioning, refrigerators, couches and flush toilets. Burning Man organizers said building and operating such a facility would cost about $1 million.

Part of the cost would go to cover BLM’s rather extensive list of meal and snack requirements. These include, but are not limited to...

Try GSA for Your Nuptial Needs

June being wedding season, you or a loved one may require a lacy white gown. Why not shop at the General Services Administration?

On Wednesday, the agency’s Atlanta regional office launched a two-week “Down the Aisle Extravaganza” to auction off 3,000 items perfect for nuptials. The must-go inventory includes wedding gowns, fine jewelry, tuxedos, formal dresses and retail furnishings seized by the U.S. Marshals Service.

The items were reportedly from an Alaska bridal shop that was a criminal front and are now part of GSA’s’s Personal Property Management program used by many agencies.

Available individually or in lots are:

  • Wedding gowns with starting bids as low as $46;
  • A 3-carat diamond and platinum engagement ring;
  • Formal wear for men, women and children;
  • A Louis Vuitton travel bag;
  • Veils and tiaras;
  • Wedding bouquets, stationery and decorations;
  • Camera equipment; and,
  • Mannequins and wall racks.

Karen Warrior, regional personal property management director for GSA’s Southeast Sunbelt Region, said the “wedding collection is a great example of the unique treasures we sell for federal agencies everyday on GSAAuctions.gov.”

Obama: I’ll ‘Yank Government’ Into Changing Its Ways

President Obama is convinced that in his time left in office, he can transform an “ossified” and “stuck” federal government into a sleeker, more agile operation that works smoothly with Silicon Valley to bring the latest technology to bear to improve people’s lives.

In a Q&A with Fast Company published Monday, Obama defended federal managers and employees, saying “the federal government is full of really smart people, with a lot of integrity, who work really hard and do some incredible stuff.” The problem, he said, is that government’s systems for purchasing and implementing new technologies have been “terrible:”

You know, our private sector thrives because we historically have had a very effective government. Now, over the last several years that has become more ossified and stuck. And it hasn’t kept pace with changes in technology. And part of what we’re doing here is to yank government—upgrade it, patch it, and ultimately transform it so that it is responsive and can interface with this new private sector in a much more effective way.

Obama said he learned about the importance of information technology in his 2008 campaign, but once he took office, the effects of...

Maybe the Supreme Court Shouldn’t Police Itself on Financial Disclosure

When President Obama signed the 2012 STOCK Act, he and Congress imposed new financial transaction disclosure requirements on top people in the legislative and executive branch. The law—opposed as intrusive by many in the senior executive service—conspicuously does not apply to the nine justices on the U.S. Supreme Court.

That ought to change, in the view of the nonprofit Center for Effective Government.

“Judges are supposed to recuse themselves from cases in which they have a conflict of interest,” wrote Scott Klinger, director of revenue and spending policies for the center formerly known as OMB Watch. “But because of outdated disclosure standards in our nation’s court system, the public too often lacks the information necessary to make sure that potential conflicts are appropriately dealt with,” he noted in a blogpost calling for greater transparency at the high court.

“Unlike Congress and the executive branch, each of which have independent arms to oversee and monitor the financial disclosure process, the Supreme Court polices itself on financial disclosure,” he wrote.

He cites studies by the advocacy group Fix the Court and the investigative group called the Center for Public Integrity that suggest a pattern in which some justices...

Boehner: Brace Yourself for Another Government Shutdown

As if the massive OPM data breach didn’t give federal employees enough to worry about this week, on Friday, House Speaker John Boehner warned that a government shutdown could be on the horizon.

Citing a story in Politico, Boehner said Democrats were planning to force another government shutdown by aggressively blocking appropriations bills unless the GOP agrees to raise federal spending. According to Politico, Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid vowed in a closed-door meeting this week with party leaders to block every spending measure raised in the chamber:

“For Democrats, the risks are worth it. By playing hardball this summer, they’re attempting to force Republicans to the negotiating table and hasten a deal to raise strict spending caps, expanding funds for programs like education and infrastructure, among other Democratic priorities.”

In news conferences and statements this week, lawmakers from both parties in both chambers traded jabs and expressed mounting frustration with opponents’ tactics over appropriations, with Boehner complaining that “President Obama has vowed to veto any legislation that adheres to budget caps set in 2011 – caps that he proposed and insisted on.”

Said Boehner:

This is dangerous, and at least one member of the president’s party agrees...