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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.

Former USDA Officials Lobby to Block Agriculture’s Plans to Relocate Research Offices

The holiday season toward the end of a Congress is a difficult time to exercise one’s constitutional right to petition the government.

Ever since the Agriculture Department unveiled its plan last August to move two key research units outside the Washington, D.C.,  “bubble,” many employees, former employees and outside stakeholders have expressed puzzlement.

Secretary Sonny Perdue cited cost savings and rural recruitment advantages to justify his plan to solicit bids from localities to be the new home to some 700 employees of USDA’s Economic Research Service and National Institute of Food and Agriculture.

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But dozens of science and research organizations have sought to block the planned move they see as poorly thought-out, that is being done outside the normal office relocation procedures run by the General Services Administration, and that could drain talent and possibly politicize research without saving money.

On Wednesday and Thursday of this week, three highly credentialed opponents of Agriculture’s plan were shepherded to a dozen or more congressional offices by a strategist from the American Statistical Association to make their case that lawmakers should block the move...

TSA Is Looking For a Few Good Dogs

It's the holiday travel season and that means a lot of extra work for some. Just ask the dogs employed by the Transportation Security Administration at airports around the United States. According to a new post in the Federal Register, TSA wants to recruit more canines to sniff your luggage.

According to the announcement, TSA is looking for "explosives detection canine teams and canine team providers" to register with the agency. But, not just any backyard breeder or trainer can become a supplier to TSA. To become a Certified Cargo Screening Facility-Canine (CCSF-K9) operator, providers would have to submit documentation, including:

  • Information on the company's corporate affiliation, corporate physical location, canine field locations, and information on certifications.
  • SSI acknowledgement, training, and non-disclosure agreement.
  • Letter of intent and affidavit signed by relevant principal(s).
  • Legal documentation describing the corporation, ID verification, and work authorization for specific individuals.

Employees of any firm selected would also have to complete background checks and training.

'60 Minutes' Scoop on Child Separations at Border Relied on Homeland Security Whistleblowers

The Sunday night television story was hard-hitting enough to draw a rebuttal from President Trump on Monday.

After CBS News' “60 Minutes” broadcast interviews with Homeland Security Department specialists criticizing the Trump administration’s “zero tolerance” border enforcement policy that has separated arriving children from their parents and finding that the practice dated back further than the administration had disclosed and affected more children, Trump told reporters on the White House lawn, “Obama had a separation policy. We all had the same policy. I tried to do it differently but Obama had the same separation policy but people didn't like to talk about it."

Trump also tweeted that he considered the broadcast a “phony story.”

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In detailing the parental anguish, risk of long-term childhood trauma and conflicting administration statements on the policy, the show’s producers relied on a trio of whistleblowers affiliated with DHS, one of whom left his job in October after the department continued to minimize the problem of child separations that the Justice Department had argued would deter future illegal border crossings. "If you are smuggling a child, then we...

Trump’s Estimate of Joint Chiefs Chairman’s Pay Was Only Off By $4.8 Million

President Trump’s assumptions about compensation for the nation’s top military leaders is apparently rooted more in his private sector experience than his knowledge of government pay scales.

The Washington Post reported Sunday that White House Chief of Staff John Kelly has been telling others a story of watching television with Trump and asking the president what he thought Gen. Joseph Dunford, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, drew in salary.

$5 million, Trump guessed.

Informed that the Joint Chiefs chairman actually makes less than $200,000 per year, Trump told Kelly that Dunford deserved a raise. That would require a change in federal law, since pay for top military officers is currently limited to rates prescribed in Level II of the Executive Schedule.

The president has been donating his own salary in quarterly increments to various federal agencies, so presumably he’s aware that even the commander-in-chief only makes $400,000 a year.

Trump: ‘This Would be a Very Good Time to do a Shutdown’

Like the rest of society, the federal government is composed of haves and have-nots—those agencies that are funded through the remainder of fiscal 2019, and those that are operating on stopgap funds set to expire on Dec. 7.

While the departments of Defense, Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, Energy, and Veterans Affairs received full-year funding through two “minibus” appropriations bills President Trump signed into law earlier this year, more than 300,000 federal workers at other departments would face furloughs (many more would be affected) if a deal is not reached before the December deadline.

Those departments, including Transportation, Housing and Urban Development, State, Interior, Agriculture, Treasury, Commerce, Homeland Security and Justice, are now pawns in a battle between the president, who wants funding to build a wall on the border with Mexico, and those who believe it would be an ineffective and costly mistake (most in Congress, including many Republicans).

Trump did not rule out a government shutdown over the issue in comments he made following the midterm elections, prompting Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to respond at the time: “We need to work this out. We’re going to do the best we can to try...