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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.
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The Problem With Government Is Not the People

Twenty-five years ago, then-Vice President Al Gore’s National Performance Review issued a report on the Clinton administration’s plans to “reinvent” the federal government. The document made Gore’s position very clear: Bureaucrats were not to blame for government’s woes:

The problem is not lazy or incompetent people: it is red tape and regulation so suffocating that they stifle every ounce of creativity. No one would offer a drowning man a drink of water. And yet, for more than a decade, we have added red tape to a system already strangling in it.

The federal government is filled with good people trapped in bad systems: budget systems, personnel systems, procurement systems, financial management systems, information systems. When we blame the people and impose more controls, we make the systems worse.

I thought of those words while reading a transcript of an interview Kara Swisher of the Recode Decode podcast did with Matt Cutts, acting head of the U.S. Digital Service. Cutts, in discussing how USDS operates—it is, in essence, a group of short-term employees drafted from the private sector to parachute in to agencies to help them solve pressing problems—said the organization doesn’t typically...

Inspectors General Mark 40th Year Feeling Needed But Stretched

Sen. Chuck Grassley called them “a force multiplier.” Former Attorney General William Barr said they have “the hardest job in any organization.” And Special Counsel Henry Kerner said that without a connection to them, his agency would be a “leaf in the wind.”

All spoke on Wednesday to an assembly of inspectors general staged on Capitol Hill to mark the 40th year since passage of the Inspector General Act. The all-day event delivered a mélange of praise, tips for improvement, and an ambitious future agenda that seeks more resources and sharing of administrative services.

The work of the government’s 73 watchdogs in search of waste, fraud and abuse is “more challenging in today’s polarized environment, but the good news is we are getting called up to do this work,” said Michael Horowitz, the Justice Department’s inspector general and chair of the Council of the Inspectors General on Integrity and Efficiency. “After 40 years, the administration, Congress and the public see us as independent.”

Horowitz—who enjoyed a moment in the spotlight after having delivered last month a historic and lengthy report on the FBI’s handling of Hillary Clinton’s controversial email conduct during the 2016...

Can You Tell the Difference Between the Trump and Obama Management Agendas?

Improving government management is one of the few remaining bipartisan endeavors in Washington. Whether a Democrat or a Republican is in the White House, the key tenets of recent management reform efforts tend to be similar, from overhauling the federal civil service to modernizing government’s information technology systems.

In fact, it can be difficult to tell presidential management initiatives apart from administration to administration, even when the party in power changes. Take the current president and his immediate predecessor. Can you tell the difference between the Trump and Obama management agendas?

Below are some key quotations and excerpts from important documents related to government reform efforts. See if you can tell which were generated by the Trump administration and which date from the Obama years. Answers are at the bottom.

1. Title of key document

a. Delivering Government Solutions in the 21st Century

b. Creating a 21st Century Government

2. In the president’s words

a. “I also asked Congress for the authority to reorganize and consolidate the federal bureaucracy.  We’re doing a lot of this work administratively, but unfortunately there are still a bunch of rules, a lot of legislation that has poorly designed some of our...

Call for Nominations: What Does It Take to Be Bold?

What does it take to be bold in government today? A good idea. The will to succeed. Support from leadership. A budget. All of the above and maybe something more.

For the last two years, as part of the annual Fedstival, Government Executive and Nextgov have hosted the Bold event to showcase the federal employees and programs taking bold steps to innovate the way agencies serve citizens.

But being bold doesn’t always mean being showy. We’re looking for the unsung heroes of federal innovation: The people and programs that are making a real difference on the edge, whether or not the rest of the federal sector is aware of them.

What does it mean to be bold in 2018? We have some ideas, but want to hear from you. Nominate yourself or someone you know for this year’s Bold program and help others in government learn from innovative examples.

Past Bold events have included presentations from National Defense University, the Office of Management and Budget, USAID, National Park Service, 18F, General Services Administration, Agriculture Department and many more.

So, help us highlight the best of federal innovation at the third annual Bold showcase. Nominations are open through...

Prez to Press: Is Reorganizing Government ‘Extraordinarily Boring’?

Reasonable people can differ on the merits of the ideas included in the Trump administration’s plan to reorganize and retool government operations, but there’s no denying that it is a substantive, serious policy document that addresses complex management issues in great detail.

Indeed, the proposal is 132 pages of pure wonkery. Here’s a sample from the introductory section:

Operating models must also be reviewed in light of the improvements possible in the digital age and lessons learned from peer organizations. Analysis that simply looks at the formal reporting structure on an organizational chart misses other critical organizational structures, including customer engagements, data flows, organizational processes, and the informal networks and cultural elements which make an organization run.

The document goes on to list hundreds of specific proposals, ranging in scope from merging the Education and Labor departments to standardizing office design at the Social Security Administration.

So perhaps it’s not surprising that President Trump offered members of the national news media the opportunity last week to opt out of observing Office of Management and Budget Director Mick Mulvaney’s update to Trump’s assembled Cabinet on the reform plan.

“Would the media like to hear Mick...