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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.

In Search of Heroes of the Public Service

Do you think it’s about time that outstanding public servants get some recognition for the work they do? Well, here’s your chance to do something about it.

Nominations for this year’s Service to America Medals, sponsored by the Partnership for Public Service, are closing soon--Jan. 16, to be exact.

All career civilian federal employees are eligible for the honor. Medals are awarded in eight categories:

  • Career Achievement
  • Call to Service
  • Citizen Services
  • Homeland Security and Law Enforcement
  • Management Excellence
  • National Security and International Affairs
  • Science and Environment
  • Federal Employee of the Year

Honorees are selected, the Partnership for Public Service says, based on the “impact of their work on meeting the needs of the nation, on-the-job innovation, and commitment to public service.”

Thirty finalists for the awards will be recognized at a Capitol Hill event this spring. Winners will be honored in the fall at a gala dinner in Washington.   

Click here to submit a Service to America Medal nomination

An Astronaut’s Life: Hyperscheduled and Bureaucratic

What is the most bureaucratic, rule-bound workplace in the world? It turns out it might be one that’s actually floating above the earth.

In the latest issue of The Atlantic, James Fishman takes a fascinating look at life aboard the International Space Station. “All day, every day, half a dozen men and women, including two Americans, are living and working in orbit, and have been since November 2000,” he writes. Life aboard the immense outpost presents a host of ongoing challenges, from figuring out how to get regular exercise to avoid loss of bone density to devising a means of sleeping without floating throughout the cabin.

There’s no laundry, very little fresh food, and much work to be done. And it turns out that work is rigidly controlled by NASA officials at Mission Control in Houston. Fishman writes:

Every day starts and ends with a daily planning conference, during which the astronauts briefly check in with all five control centers around the world to talk about schedule glitches or pending maintenance, or look ahead to the next day. (NASA has a second facility, in Huntsville, Alabama, to handle scientific research; Moscow has a Mission Control for the Russian ...

Rand Paul Airs His Grievances Against Government

Fans of Seinfeld are no doubt already aware that today, Dec. 23, is Festivus, the Frank Costanza-invented anti-consumerist counter-holiday celebration. Festivus begins with the Airing of Grievances, in which participants let loose with all the faults they find in others:

Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., is apparently a Seinfeld fan, because he used his Twitter account Monday to air his grievances for 2014. It started out in lighthearted fashion, with the senator and likely presidential candidate poking fun at those who poke fun at his hair:

But then Paul let his libertarian streak take over, and the stream of tweets turned into an anti-government rant, centered around federal spending the good senator finds questionable:

Really, senator? Even at the holidays, you can’t find something nice to say about government and its employees?

(Top image via Christopher Halloran / Shutterstock.com

Cigar Enthusiasts Champing at the Bit

Many U.S. businesses spent the weekend salivating over new trade and investment possibilities in Cuba that may be hastened by President Obama's move to begin normalizing relations with the left-wing dictatorship.

But few took action quicker than the American cigar industry publication Cigar Aficianado, which took out a full-page ad on the last page of The New York Times Business Day section. "Pres. Obama: Here is what you should do about Cuba," it read, displaying covers of back issues featuring Fidel Castro holding a fresh smoke, a model, and an article debating, "Is it time to End the Embargo?" For the past 20 years, the magazine boasts, "we've covered Cuba like no one else." 

No indicator yet whether Obama, who chews Nicorette gum to kick his smoking habit, will now subscribe.

(Image via  / Shutterstock.com)

The Ambassadorial Confirmation Scorecard

The Senate’s last-minute flurry of ambassadorial confirmations was no doubt better than gridlock for the American Foreign Service Association. That union has long complained of extended vacancies in key overseas posts due to Senate internal politics, and earlier this year took a rare position criticizing the Obama administration for nominating too many campaign donors with questionable expertise in the host nation.

In December, the Senate approved 14 ambassadors—among them envoys to Afghanistan and India—along with three key State Department leaders, including the new Deputy Secretary of State Antony Blinken.

But according to AFSA’s tally, that still left 12 ambassador nominees hanging after months in limbo, along with four candidates for senior State positions. (Hotel executive and Obama campaign donor George Tsunis, who waited 462 days with hope of being ambassador to Norway, told Newsday this month he is withdrawing.)

Here are those in limbo, along with their time in line:

Nominee Position Date Nominated Days Waiting Home State FSO or Appointee
John Estrada Trinidad and Tobago 07/31/13 504 FL Political (*)
George Tsunis Norway 09/11/13 462 NY Political (*)
Cassandra Butts Bahamas 02/10/14 308 DC Political (*)
S. Fitzgerald Haney Costa Rica ...