Vegas, Baby

What happens in Las Vegas shouldn't always stay there. In June, a group of federal employees traveled to Sin City to discuss management issues at a conference sponsored by the Los Angeles and San Francisco Federal Executive Boards.

Washington was an important part of the conversation, and for good reason: Capitol Hill is ablaze with management reform. During the four-day conference, the board reviewing the National Security Personnel System announced its schedule of meetings, and the House passed a bill to provide paid parental leave to federal employees.

Federal offices on the West Coast also are innovating. The Environmental Protection Agency and the General Services Administration are both experimenting with composting initiatives at some of their California buildings.

The Social Security Administration is riding a retirement wave and implementing ambitious training programs to prepare employees for promotion. And federal doctors and scientists in Southern California are working to improve the speed and quality of emergency response. The event served as a useful reminder that lots of change is happening beyond the Beltway.

-Alyssa Rosenberg

Putting It in Perspective

In his first extensive interview since returning to government, Ed DeSeve, the Obama administration's stimulus point man, talked recently with Government Executive about his philosophy on the job.

Q. What keeps you up at night about the Recovery Act?

A. I honestly sleep well at night. And I don't mean to be cavalier about that. The challenge to all of us is to make sure the Recovery Act has its intended impact, which is to create jobs, to spend federal money wisely and to help people who are most vulnerable in this economic recession. Every day I come to work I think about those things. And what keeps me up at night is that I remember what I need to do the next day to make those things happen.

Q. Now that you are back in government, do you plan to stick around after your Recovery Act position is over?

A. I did not put an end date in my own mind, but I want to get this done and I want to get it done right. I am not thinking about what happens next. I am thinking about what happens next week and what happens next month and what happens in six months. I just want to do a good job.

-Robert Brodsky

Weight Management

Belt-tightening in government is proving to be popular these days- figuratively and literally.

Federal agencies are responding to President Obama's call to shape up. The Veterans Affairs Department is promoting its wellness programs, including one inspired by NBC's hit reality series The Biggest Loser.

According to a 2008 report, employees at VA's Pittsburgh Healthcare System have lost a collective 853 pounds participating in a 2007 contest advertised as, "Are you the biggest loser at your facility?" The contest was part of VA's MoveEmployee! program and is similar to others that private businesses have been sponsoring.

As part of the contest, participants met with a dietician for a weekly weigh-in. After 12 weeks, the winners in each division received vouchers for VA's food and retail service.

Richard Harvey, VA's health promotion program manager, says the government can learn from the private sector's experience shedding pounds and trimming expenses. Many companies have seen significant savings by investing in results-oriented employee wellness programs, he notes. They often use incentives as well as individual health appraisals and pro- active programs targeting specific health risks. In a 2008 research paper, Harvey cited statistics showing for every $1 some companies spent on such programs, they generated $4 in health care and work-related savings.

-Alex M. Parker

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