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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.

Improving Customer Experience, When the Taxpayer Is Your Customer

The customer may not always be right, but successful businesses know that it’s best to treat them as if they are (and when they’re wrong, to let them down ever so gently). Friendly, efficient, competent service fosters loyalty, and in the private sector, that engenders growth and profitability. For government agencies though, where customers are taxpayers, the experience is often a lot more complicated—and more fraught.

As former OMB executive Shelley Metzenbaum noted in a recent column: “Any form of waiting [for service] is irritating, but we seem to reserve a special level of ire when waiting for government.”

In recent years, agencies have rightly put a much greater focus on improving the experience of their customers. The Obama administration has made improving customer service a priority goal across all agencies:  

The American people deserve a Government that is responsive to their needs. Citizens and businesses expect government services to be well-designed, efficient, and generally comparable to the services they receive from leading private sector organizations. Whether they call the IRS for an answer to a tax question or visit a Social Security Administration office to adjust their benefits, they should experience high-quality interactions with the Federal...

Two Decades of GovExec.com

Twenty years ago today, I was sitting in my office eagerly — and tensely — waiting for our information technology team to flip the switch on a server and launch us into the digital age. We’d spent months building GovExec.com from scratch to reach this moment of truth.

Luckily, it went off without a hitch, and we were off and running. Soon, Tim Clark, then-editor of Government Executive, walked down the hall and casually asked, "What's new on the site today? After all, we're in the news business now, right?"

At that moment, I realized the real work — and fun — was ahead of us.

We’ve come a long way since that hot August day in 1996 when we launched — figuring, in case something went wrong, that few people would be paying attention in the sleepy summer months. And things did go wrong. I was prone to overwriting the HTML on the home page on occasion, and once we managed to destroy the whole site and had to rebuild it on the fly.

Michael Reeder, who led the launch effort, managed that situation with aplomb — and with the help of intern extraordinaire Brian Friel, who has gone on...

Hillary Clinton's Inner Wonk Emerges in Her Big Speech

In a work-woman-like acceptance speech packed with the obligatory rhetoric, Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton on Thursday night admitted what many had long suspected: That she is more at home discussing the minutia of Washington policy than she is on the campaign stump under pressure to bare her soul.

Clinton’s speech touching all bases in domestic and national security policy capsulized her resume as first lady, senator and secretary of State, declaring “through all these years of public service, the service part has always come easier to me than the public part.”

Few presidential candidates in the past could be imagined saying, as Clinton did, “I sweat the details of policy, whether we're talking about the exact level of lead in the drinking water in Flint, Michigan, the number of mental health facilities or the cost of your prescription drugs." Such in-the-weeds governing facts represent “not just a detail if it's your kid, if it's your family. It's a big deal,” Clinton said. “And it should be a big deal to your president, too.”

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Accusing Republican opponent Donald Trump of...

No One Will Want a Federal Leadership Job After What I've Been Through, IRS Chief Warns

A man who has spent decades in and out of government is worried the recent Republican crusade against him will discourage others from following in his footsteps, potentially viewing his professional arc as a cautionary tale of the perils of public service.

Internal Revenue Service Commissioner John Koskinen said in a visit to an agency facility in Utah that a recent push by House Republicans to impeach him would deter individuals from entering the federal government and seeking leadership roles.

"If this is the signal we are sending to people thinking about coming to take a senior position in government, it's going to make it harder for good people to come in," Koskinen said Wednesday, according to the Salt Lake Tribune.

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Koskinen was speaking in the home state of the man leading the charge to oust him from government, House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Jason Chaffetz. The committee has deemed the commissioner unfit after accusing him of failing to comply with subpoenas and destroying evidence relating to former IRS official Lois Lerner and the targeting of certain tax-exempt groups.

The former Y2K...

Good Luck With That 100-Day War on Waste, Mr. Trump

It was almost an afterthought in Donald Trump’s GOP nomination acceptance speech Thursday night, but in the midst of a law-and-order, America-first, no-more-bad-trade-deals address, there was a promise for a good old-fashioned war on waste in government.

“We are going to ask every department head in government to provide a list of wasteful spending projects that we can eliminate in my first 100 days,” Trump said. “The politicians have talked about it; I’m going to do it.”

It’s worth examining that pledge in a little more detail, because it says a lot about how Trump would actually try to run government — and the huge challenge he would be up against.

For starters, Trump’s plan presupposes that heads of federal departments (who would by and large be acting officials in the first 100 days, until Trump’s appointees were confirmed), have control over eliminating projects. They don’t, and neither does Trump himself. By and large, ending federal programs is up to Congress. And historically, lawmakers have shown little interest in cutting projects that, after all, they approved at some point.

Trump’s plan also assumes that agency heads have an interest in cutting the programs they...

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