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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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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...

A Gray Day Outside OPM: Employees React to Agency's Diminished Role Under Reorganization Plan

Employees at the Office of Personnel Management appeared glum on this rainy, gray Friday, the day after the Trump administration unveiled a wide-reaching reorganization plan that would slice OPM into pieces.

In lunch hour on-the-street interviews with Government Executive, the few who agreed to speak said many employees were worried about the plan that calls for transferring OPM’s security clearance functions to the Pentagon, its insurance and retirement benefits services to the General Services Administration, and its employee services functions to political appointees at the White House.

“From their facial expressions and body language, I could tell people were upset,” said one.

“People were shocked,” said a paralegal in the retirement division. But mostly “they want to make sure their job is not affected.”

Another OPM paralegal said: “Mr. Trump is being true to his words about draining the swamp. However, I don’t think it’s feasible or sensible. GSA hasn’t done a very good job of managing their own responsibilities. OPM’s responsibilities are multi-faceted, so moving them would bring more bureaucracy and more waste.”

This employee approved of some of the plan’s streamlining ideas, particularly in reducing information technology redundancies. “But we don’t...

It’s Hard to Kill an Agency, But Renaming One Is a Different Matter

The Trump administration’s long-promised plan to reorganize the executive branch may soon be out, according to a Wednesday report in Politico. The plan reportedly includes a major shake-up at the Health and Human Services Department, where the White House intends to consolidate safety-net programs for Americans in need. What’s more, the administration wants to change the name of the department to reflect the new responsibilities:

It’s unclear exactly how HHS would be reshuffled, but sources said its new name would emphasize programs that provide assistance to low-income Americans, potentially restoring the term “welfare” to the title of the department.

If it occurs, it wouldn’t be the first time an administration (and Congress) changed the name of an agency. HHS itself sprang from the Department of Education, Health and Welfare, which was created under President Eisenhower in 1953. (It was christened the Department of Health and Human Services in 1980, after the 1979 Department of Education Organization Act created a separate Department of Education.)

If history is any guide, it could take the public years to adjust to a new name. Take our quiz and test your knowledge of other department name changes: