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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.

DHS Dogs Demonstrate on Capitol Hill

The Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee can hold contentious hearings some days. Today was not one of those days. Instead, the Senators got to talk about dogs.

The committee held the Dogs of DHS: How Canine Programs Contribute to Homeland Security hearing Thursday with witnesses from the Transportation Security Agency, Government Accountability Office and Customs and Border Protection testifying about the merits of canine programs at DHS in airports nationwide. The committee also witnessed demonstrations from three canine units.

TSA inspector Doug Timberlake and his partner Reverso were introduced first. Named after bond trader Joseph Reverso who perished in the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, the four-legged Reverso sniffs out bombs. Reverso and Timberlake detect explosives at Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport near D.C. Timberlake explained how the canine program within TSA compares to the screening technology at airports.

"There's no machine that can detect explosive materials the way a canine can," Timberlake said at the hearing. "[The machines] cannot reason and problem-solve to find the source of the substance."

Maggie @TSA works through a blizzard at @Dulles_Airport near #DC. 

A photo posted by Dept. of Homeland Security (@dhsgov) on

Donald Trump’s Plan for Cutting Government

In Thursday’s CNN/Telemundo Republican presidential debate-turned-cage-match, moderator Wolf Blitzer asked Donald Trump how he would pay for his proposed tax cut and bring the federal budget into balance. Here’s how he responded:

We're going to make many cuts in business. We're getting rid of -- we're going to get rid of so many different things. Department of Education -- Common Core is out. We're going local. Have to go local. Environmental protection -- we waste all of this money. We're going to bring that back to the states. And we're going to have other …  many things. We are going to cut many of the agencies, we will balance our budget, and we will be dynamic again.

Blitzer was quick to point out that eliminating the Education Department and the Environmental Protection Agency in their entirety -- which Trump, if you look closely, does not actually seem to be proposing to do -- would only save $68 billion and $8 billion, respectively. And it remains a mystery as to which other organizations fall into the category of “many of the agencies” that Trump would cut.

Pressed on where else he would find spending reductions to eliminate the...

VA Does Not Stand For 'Veterans Administration'

The 2016 presidential campaign has been everything except predictable. But we can count on one thing: At any given moment, an Oval Office hopeful somewhere is screwing up the name of the Veterans Affairs Department.

Both Republican and Democratic candidates consistently call the Veterans Affairs Department the “Veterans Administration” during debates, rallies, town halls and other public remarks. That would be fine if it were the 1980s, and Ronald Reagan were president.

But in March 1989 – nearly 27 years ago -- the Veterans Administration was renamed the Veterans Affairs Department. (Reagan elevated the VA to a Cabinet-level department in October 1988, and the change took effect in March 1989 under President George H. W. Bush.) Yet current and former 2016 presidential candidates – many of whom have served in public office for some time – can’t quite seem to get the name right. 

A few examples:

I will fight to protect and preserve the Veterans Administration.” – Democratic Sen. Bernie Sanders during the Feb. 18 MSNBC/Telemundo town hall. Sanders is a member of the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee and is a former chairman of the panel.

“I'd like to ask all the veterans listening out there tonight, who are waiting in...

I’m Not a ‘Big Government, Crazy Liberal,’ Obama Insists

As President Obama’s second term draws to a close, he’s not exactly taking a victory lap. But he is making a concerted effort to challenge the perception that he’s a lover of big government who has spent his time in office seeking to expand the federal footprint.

On Monday, the president insisted in a question and answer session at a National Governors Association gathering that he in fact took a measured approach to the role of government in the economy -- if only to save himself and his administration from creating too much work for themselves.

Obama’s remarks came in the context of a discussion of regulatory reform, in which he said he was open to trimming unnecessary rules, and that he didn’t really want that many in the first place:

If any of you doubt my claim that we have actually eliminated a whole bunch of regulations, we can give you a whole manual. [OMB Director] Shaun Donovan knows because I’ve charged him with this. …

I do not believe in regulation for regulation’s sake -- contrary to rumor.  This idea that somehow I get a kick out of big government is just not the...

Ted Cruz vs. ‘Plush-Bottomed Bureaucrats’

In a major address on the future of the U.S. military in South Carolina Tuesday, GOP presidential contender Ted Cruz laid out an expansive vision of a beefed-up force that would project power all over the world.

But Cruz, who has previously said the United States should “carpet bomb” the Islamic State into submission, also took a stand firmly in favor of military commanders, and against the civilian leadership of the Defense Department.

"Combat is death, honor and chaos," Cruz said in his speech. "The last thing any commander should need to worry about is the grades he is getting from some plush-bottomed Pentagon bureaucrat for political correctness or social experiments--or providing gluten-free MREs."

Setting aside the question of whether gluten-free MREs (that’s meals ready-to-eat, for those not familiar with the Pentagon’s lingo for food eaten in the field) are even a thing--apparently the policies on providing them differ by military service--Cruz’s comment spoke to an evident disdain for the current approach to civilian oversight of military operations.

Indeed, his official plan for growing the size of the military states: “We will scale back on the bloated bureaucracy and social experiments, and we will invest...