Briefing

Govvies Around the Globe

It's easy to lose track of the people carrying out government policies and to focus on stories of ineffective bureau-cracy. But Dutch photographer Jan Banning has put civil servants in the spotlight in both Bureaucratics (Nazraeli Press, 2008) and a related exhibition.

Since 2002, Banning and author Will Tinnemans have traveled to eight countries, ranging from the United States to Yemen, to capture public servants in their natural work settings.

Banning, who studied history and characterizes himself as an "anarchist at heart," was interested in the extent to which "state power [was] expressed by these people in their offices," versus that to which "people managed to keep [their] individuality." That varied.

In Bolvia, for example, pictures of former president Simón Bolívar were common; in Texas, Banning was hard-pressed to find images of presidents. "On the whole," he says, "I have the feeling there still is individuality in these people."

- Amelia Gruber

Home, Sweet, Homeland Security

John Hinckley slept here. Most people remember the psychiatric patient who shocked the nation when he shot President Reagan in 1981. So perhaps it's ironic that the nation's premier defender against terrorist acts, the Homeland Security Department, will be moving in. The National Capital Planning Commission has approved the final master plan for DHS' new headquarters at the site of the former Saint Elizabeths Hospital in Southeast Washington.

The blueprint for redeveloping the former psychiatric facility into a secure site includes 4.5 million square feet of office space and 1.5 million square feet of parking. The campus, expected to be complete in the next eight years, will be home to 14,000 of the department's 26,000 DHS employees, beginning with the U.S. Coast Guard. The Transportation Security Administration, Customs and Border Protection, Immigration and Customs Enforcement, and the Federal Emergency Management Agency will follow in phases.

Saint Elizabeths, built in 1855, was the first federally operated institution for the mentally ill. The plan seeks to maintain the site's historic character and reuse many of the existing buildings. The planning commission's approval is contingent on several factors, such as construction of an access road by the General Services Administration.

- Elizabeth Newell

Branching Out

During the 2008 presidential election, there was a lot of hand-wringing over which candidates had the requisite executive experience to run the nation. The new administration, however, is teeming with former lawmakers. At least six high-profile picks are previous part-time residents of the Capitol: Hillary Rodham Clinton (State), Ray LaHood (Transportation), Rahm Emanuel (chief of staff), Leon Panetta (CIA), Ken Salazar (Interior) and Hilda Solis (Labor). The names of two other legislators, Tom Daschle (Health and Human Services) and Judd Gregg (Commerce) were floated, then withdrawn.

As for managerial experience, Clinton could count her years as first lady. Before his days in Congress, LaHood was a teacher and planning commissioner in Illinois; Emanuel had a stint as a bank executive; Salazar was executive director of the Colorado natural resources department; and Solis served as an analyst at the Office of Management and Budget. But Panetta, a nine-term congressman from California, has a lock on executive experience. He has served as OMB director and White House chief of staff and is well-known as the consummate government manager.

- Kellie Lunney

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