Around Government

By Charles S. Clark, Chawndese Hylton, Susan Fourney, Eric Katz, and Kedar Pavgi

July 1, 2013

Debating the Draft

One lawmaker says women should sign up, while others say shut it down.

The decades-old military draft system could be in line for a face-lift if some in Congress have their way. 

Lawmakers are making moves to reform the Selective Service, the agency in charge of registering young men for compulsory service in the event of a military call-up. The agency was created in 1948, and the last draft was in the early 1970s during the Vietnam War.

One bill, sponsored by Rep. Charles Rangel, D-N.Y., would reinstate the draft and require women to register with the Selective Service System—which now applies only to men ages 18 to 25. According to Rangel, the Defense Department’s new policy to allow women in combat should require them to sign up as well. 

“Requiring women to register with the Selective Service would compel the American public to have a stake in the wars we fight as a nation,” he said in
a statement.

Two other lawmakers want to eliminate the Selective Service. Reps. Peter DeFazio, D-Ore., and Mike Coffman, R-Colo., say the agency’s $24 million budget is a waste of taxpayer money. They argue that the Pentagon is unlikely to resort to a draft if a conflict breaks out, and say Congress is unnecessarily prolonging the agency’s life. 

Either proposal would bring significant change to the Selective Service System. Since the shift to an all-volunteer military force in 1973, the agency and its workforce of about 130 employees has taken a back-seat role in supporting Defense. Still, registration with Selective Service is mandatory for eligibility in many federal programs, including student financial aid and government employment. 

Though legislation is unlikely to make headway anytime soon, the movement to change the draft is likely to persist in Washington’s tough budget environment. 

- Kedar Pavgi 

For the Birds

Government transparency is considered an aspirational goal these days, but on occasion it can ruffle some feathers.  

Collisions with glass buildings cause up to 1 billion bird deaths each year, according to Rep. Mike Quigley, D-Ill., who has introduced a bill to compel the General Services Administration to incorporate bird-safe building materials and design features into federal structures.

“This completely cost-neutral bill will save these birds’ lives without requiring unrealistic actions or expenditures,” Quigley wrote on his website. “The way we live our lives cannot be detrimental to other species, and yet collisions with glass on buildings is a man-made issue.”  

- Susan Fourney

Tornado Relief Fund Started

Terri Long was known as a fighter.

During her career at the Federal Aviation Administration, she fought against her cancer—which she defeated—and for her co-workers, as vice president of the Oklahoma chapter of the Professional Aviation Safety Specialists. 

Long died May 20, one of 24 people killed by tornadoes in Moore, Okla. Federal employees have mobilized to help her family and other storm victims. 

“We have been nonstop since [the tornado hit],” says LeAnn Jenkins, president of Oklahoma’s Federal Executive Board. “There’s been a lot of communication and coordination of resources and unmet needs.” 

There are at least 5,000 FAA employees in Oklahoma, many of whom work at the Mike Monroney Aeronautical Center in Oklahoma City. The storm—and a tornado in Shawnee the previous day—destroyed the homes of many federal employees. 

A Social Security Administration building was damaged, and the local post office in Moore was destroyed. U.S. Postal Service employee Richard L. Jones was killed. Two weeks later, another tornado outbreak ripped through the region and killed 14 people.

To make a donation to the Federal Employee Education and Assistance Fund for tornado relief, go to www.feea.org.

-   Eric Katz

Getting Personal

The perils of using private email accounts for federal business.

It’s tempting, with modern remote access to email worldwide, to toggle back and forth between personal and business accounts. But for federal officials, the temptation can spell trouble.

Several Obama administration officials have been taken to task recently for conducting government business using private email. Lisa Jackson, before leaving as Environmental Protection Agency administrator in December, drew attention from EPA’s inspector general and Rep. Ralph Hall, R-Texas, who serves on the House Science and Energy committees, for using a secondary email account for selected communications—along with other agency officials. The account used the pseudonym Richard Windsor.

Thomas Perez, President Obama’s nominee for Labor secretary, faced a rocky confirmation battle in the Senate this spring, in part because of some 1,200 emails from his personal account in which he discussed Justice Department strategy in a controversial housing discrimination case in St. Paul, Minn.

Gary Gensler, chairman of the Commodity Futures Trading Commission, was criticized by his agency’s inspector general in May for using a personal email account in discussing regulators’ handling of the collapse of the brokerage firm MF Global Holdings in 2010. 

William Bransford, general counsel to the Senior Executives Association, says using personal email for work is not advisable because of the need to archive. “With a personal account, the government can’t investigate something that may be inappropriate or on the edge—they would need a search warrant,” he says. 

EPA argues it is standard practice and that the personal accounts are subject to the same disclosure requirements as official accounts. Lawmakers argue it violates the administration’s commitment
to transparency. 

- Charles S. Clark

Out of Africa

A virtual trip can be the next best thing to being there when tight budgets make the trek impossible. That’s why the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African Art has partnered with Polycom to use video collaboration tools to bring art and science exhibits like “African Cosmos: Stellar Arts” into the classroom. The free interactive virtual field trips offer “a way for schools to enhance their art education without spending resources or traveling,” says Deborah Stokes, NMAA’s curator for education.  

-  Chawndese Hylton


By Charles S. Clark, Chawndese Hylton, Susan Fourney, Eric Katz, and Kedar Pavgi

July 1, 2013

http://www.govexec.com/magazine/briefing/2013/07/around-government/65813/