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Remembering Veterans on Pearl Harbor Day

Seventy-five years after Japan’s surprise attack on Pearl Harbor slaughtered 2,403 Americans and launched an unprepared nation into World War II, that conflict remains for many, the “good war.” The war was unavoidable (though the U.S. long tried to avoid it); the stakes and battle lines were clear, and it accelerated the American Century.

For good reason, public officials have used the occasion to laud the nation’s veterans. As Rep. Adam Smith, D-Wash., the ranking House Armed Services Committee member, put it:

“Today, we commemorate the heroism and sacrifice of the more than 2,400 Americans who lost their lives in the attack on Pearl Harbor. We will never forget them or their deeds, nor those of the millions more who fought to defeat fascism and forge a new international order that helped to secure peace around the globe. It is our profound duty to continue honoring them, by providing for our veterans and ensuring that we care for our men in women and uniform second to none.”

Few would disagree with Smith on the need to honor veterans. But in a nation where few serve in the military, too often that duty is tainted with...

A Gingrich Commission to Reorganize Government?

Former House Speaker and erstwhile presidential candidate Newt Gingrich has ruled out serving in Donald Trump’s cabinet, saying he’ll “be focused on strategic planning.” This week the Wall Street Journal’s editorial page weighed in with a proposal for the kind of planning Gingrich could be involved in: heading an effort to “modernize and shrink the federal government.”

The Journal’s editorial writers made the case for a Gingrich Commission, modeled on the Hoover Commissions of the 1940s and 1950s. Those two panels made hundreds of recommendations for reorganizing federal agencies and overhauling government operations, many of which were — against all odds — actually adopted. (Subsequent commissions and reform efforts have been long on ideas and short on implementation, often because of partisan wrangling.)

On the other hand, the Journal opined, “a Gingrich Commission would have an opening for greater progress with a GOP White House and Congress. There’s always a chance that the effervescent Mr. Gingrich would veer off course by proposing a military base on the moon. But he talks all the time about updating government for the 21st century, and he published a book on “winning the future” that covers everything from education to balancing...

What Should Trump Seek in a Budget Director?

News reports this week have President-elect Donald Trump considering Goldman Sachs president Gary Cohn to head the Office of Management and Budget.

Unclear from Cohn’s Wall Street background is whether he would meet basic criteria that two past and prominent budget directors laid out at a Thursday lunch talk put on by the nonprofit Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget.

The crusading anti-federal-debt group showcased its three co-chairs: former Rep. Tim Penny, D-Minn.; former Clinton administration budget director Leon Panetta (who also chaired the House Budget Committee long before serving in the Obama Cabinet); and former Indiana Republican Gov. Mitch Daniels, budget director under President George W. Bush and now president of Purdue University. 

All expressed disappointment that the national debt and rising budget deficit were not discussed more in the presidential campaign, and all acknowledged that little is known about Trump’s fiscal leanings—indeed, the coming new administration, Daniels said, “is still finding out about itself.”

But all agreed that significant action to assure a fiscally healthy government for future generations will require the new president, not just the hydra-headed Congress, to make living within the government’s means a priority.

Asked what traits Trump should look...

The Government's Landlord Needs to Explain How It Will Resolve Trump's Hotel Lease

Nobody is arguing that the General Services Administration did anything wrong in leasing the Old Post Office Pavilion to the Trump Organization through a bidding process that began in 2008, well before Donald Trump decided to run for president. But when Trump declared his candidacy for president in August 2015, it might have occurred to somebody at GSA that the lease could become a problem. It certainly should have been on GSA's radar after Trump received the Republican Party's nomination for president in July, and when candidate Trump took a break from campaigning to attend the Trump International Hotel's grand opening Oct. 26, agency executives should have been deep into planning for the possibility that he would become president. 

As former federal procurement executives Steven Schooner and Daniel Gordon noted in a recent column on Government Executive, the contract language is clear: “No ... elected official of the Government of the United States ... shall be admitted to any share or part of this Lease, or to any benefit that may arise therefrom.”

When Government Executive asked GSA about the lease two weeks ago, the agency issued a statement saying it had run "a fair and open competition, subject...

Obama Awards Presidential Medals of Freedom

President Obama on Tuesday awarded 20 Presidential Medals of Freedom, recognizing leaders in activism, culture, technology and sports. The ceremony, which Obama said he "always loves" doing, was the final one of its kind for his presidency.

Obama has awarded more Medals of Freedom than any previous president, according to an analysis by the Washington Post. The current White House occupant has given out 114 medals, 28 more than the next-closest presidents (Ronald Reagan and Bill Clinton).

"Everybody on this stage has touched me in a very powerful, very personal way,” Obama later said. “These are folks who have helped make me who I am.”

Those honored included basketball stars (the president's favorite sport)—Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Michael Jordan. Abdul-Jabbar's medal is the second official Obama administration honor bestowed on the six-time all-star, as he was selected by the State Department as a Global Cultural Ambassador in 2012. Obama also referenced Abdul-Jabbar's faith, saying "he stood up with his Muslim faith when it was uneasy or popular."

Jordan's accomplishments -- six NBA titles, two Olympic gold medals and five NBA MVP awards -- and status as the greatest NBA player in the history of the league have...

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