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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.

It's Getting Easier to Reach IRS Employees

Some agency employees are reluctant to publish their phone numbers for fear, perhaps, of harassment. That appeared to be the case at the Internal Revenue Service’s Exempt Organizations Division, which for months resisted efforts to obtain a phone list by tax attorney and newsletter editor Paul Streckfus.

After pleas and even a Freedom of Information Act request last September (which IRS denied on privacy grounds), Streckfus finally wrote in March directly to Commissioner John Koskinen.

As reported in his newsletter E.O. Tax Journal Friday, the IRS gave ground in a May 23 letter from John H. Davis Jr., deputy associate director at the agency’s Disclosure Headquarters. Attached were the “names, titles, posts of duty, office telephone numbers, email addresses, and business units of the current non-clerical IRS employees assigned to the Exempt Organization function of the TE/GE Division of the Internal Revenue Service who have been previously publicly identified.”

A grateful Streckfus plans to seek additional contact information for his readers once the E.O. division completes a reorganization.

Trump's Vision for Pennsylvania Avenue

More than a half-century after President Kennedy pressed for a renewal of a then-blighted Pennsylvania Avenue, another experienced presidential candidate is making his mark on Washington’s grand boulevard.

Developer Donald Trump, who last year won a General Services Administration 60-year lease to renovate the historic Old Post Office, has offered a glimpse of his plans for a 271-room luxury hotel that preserves the 19th-century exterior. In New York Times business story published Wednesday, Trump described the 16-foot-ceiling rooms that “will be the largest of any of the rooms in D.C.,” and supplied the paper with an artist’s rendering of the planned 13,000-square-foot Grand Ballroom of Trump International Hotel. “It’s very unusual to have that frontage on such an unusual thoroughfare,” Trump said. “We’re looking to make that one of the great hotels of the world.”

It’s a far cry from the long-empty food court and offices of the National Endowments for the Arts and Humanities, which GSA was required to relocate (they moved this month to 7th Street Southwest). Trump plans to complete the Post Office renovation in time for the 2017 inauguration.

Asked why Trump was selected, GSA chief Dan Tangherlini said ...

Shutdowns, Base Closings and Other True Stories of Suburban Federal Life

By day, Charlie Clark covers federal management issues here at Government Executive, writing about everything from President Obama’s management agenda to Defense acquisition reform.

But when he’s not cranking out news stories at a prodigious pace, Charlie moonlights for the Falls Church News-Press, writing about life in his beloved hometown of Arlington, Va., as the “Our Man in Arlington” columnist. Now, many of those columns have been compiled into a book, Arlington County Chronicles (History Press).

Not surprisingly, given the fact that Arlington sits perched right across the river from the nation’s capital, the book features several vignettes about how the federal government has touched the lives of Arlingtonians, especially those who work for Uncle Sam.

For example, Charlie writes about how last year’s 16-day government shutdown “cut a swath through Arlington life:”

Washington’s closest suburb is home to some 34,000 of the 800,000 federal employees who were furloughed by the new downtown radicals’ budget faceoff, many of them my neighbors.

Daily, I watched as dads walked their kids to school (how do you explain a furlough to a first-grader?) and puttered in their yards. One devoted the forced downtime to renovating a ...

Bad News for Agency Budgets

The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office, as part of its ongoing public education efforts, just published a simplified summary of the outlook for federal spending that does not bode well for most agencies.

The matter-of-fact slide show delivered to the Stanford Institute for Economic Policy Research by CBO Director Douglas Elmendorf May 13 reiterates some familiar grim news. For example, federal debt as percentage of gross domestic product is now at its highest since 1950, while budget deficits, while declining now, are set to rise beginning in 2016.

The reasons for the imbalance include entitlement commitments, the demographic bulge of the baby-boomers and health care costs that are growing more rapidly than the rest of the economy. Interestingly, the average tax burdens in 2013 for most income groups, CBO said, were “well below their averages for the 1979–2010 period.” Yet federal spending and revenues are both projected to rise above their 40-year averages--beginning this year.

Perhaps the most salient point will affect feds who work not on giant slices of the pie chart like Social Security and Medicare but on programs that depend on an annual appropriation. Spending on such nondefense “investments,” which, CBO notes, do the most to help ...

EPA Employee Spent 2-6 Hours per Day at Work Watching Porn

Sometimes, you are simply caught red handed.

Such was the case with an employee at the Environmental Protection Agency when an investigator from the inspector general’s office came in to follow up on a tip. The investigator was looking into whether the employee was actually storing pornographic material on a network server shared with co-workers.

When the investigator came in for the interview, the employee in question was “actively viewing porn on his government-issued computer,” Deputy Assistant Inspector General for Investigations Allan Williams told a congressional committee Wednesday.  

Apparently seeing little way to plead innocence, the employee “confessed to spending, on average, between two and six hours per day viewing pornography while at work.” Investigators later found the employee had downloaded and viewed more than 7,000 pornographic files during duty hours.

The Justice Department has taken over the case for prosecution.