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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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State of the Union Highlights: Bureaucracy, Big Government and Benefits

Live updates from President Obama's State of the Union address, highlighting his statements about government management and federal employees. 

10:09 p.m. The State of the Union, in one word: "strong." And that's a wrap. 

10:02 p.m. A challenge to all Americans on working to get the government they want: "It will depend on you. That’s what’s meant by a government of, by, and for the people."

9:57 p.m. The big issue: Big government. “Our founders distributed power between states and branches of government, and expected us to argue, just as they did, over the size and shape of government, over commerce and foreign relations, over the meaning of liberty and the imperatives of security.”

9:49 p.m. On the Ebola response: "Our military, our doctors, and our development workers set up the platform that allowed other countries to join us in stamping out that epidemic."

9:45 p.m. For a speech that wasn't supposed to focus on a "list of proposals for the year ahead," it sure has a lot of proposals for the year ahead. 

9:39 p.m. It wouldn't be a State of...

One-Fourth of Agency Leadership Posts Are Unfilled

As President Obama embarks on the final year of his presidency, the number of leadership vacancies around the government has reached as high as one-fourth of available positions, according to research published on Tuesday by POLITICO.

Fully 103 of the top 379 Cabinet-level administration jobs are currently without a Senate-confirmed leader, according to the compilation titled “Obama’s Vanishing Administration.” The largest numbers of high-level vacancies are at the State Department (51) and Defense (45), followed by Justice (18).

At the Environmental Protection Agency, more than half the agency’s top slots are held by interim leaders, the piece noted. The job of Education secretary, held until last month by Arne Duncan, is likely to be held through next January by acting Secretary John B. King Jr., who previously was senior adviser delegated duties of deputy Education secretary.

 “As senior aides have bolted for higher paying gigs, their jobs have remained empty — in some cases with replacements stuck in Senate limbo who may never get confirmed,” wrote reporter Darren Samuelsohn.

“The sheer number of vacancies is having a real-world effect on Obama, whose government is on high alert for terrorist attacks and still plans to wage domestic policy fights right...

Americans' Biggest Problem in 2015? Government

The country’s No. 1 problem in the year that just passed was its government, according to a new survey.

The Gallup poll found for the second consecutive year, more Americans identified Uncle Sam as the “most important problem facing the United States” than any other issue. An average of 16 percent of respondents selected government, followed by 13 percent who said the economy, 8 percent who chose unemployment and 8 percent who selected immigration.

In 2013, government was the second most common answer on the year-end biggest problem survey, while it was third in 2011 and 2012. The poll lumped together several elements of the federal government, including President Obama, Congress and federal agencies.

The yearly averages from Gallup’s poll represent the combined results from a total of 12,000 respondents and have a 1 percent margin of error. 

(Image via  / Shutterstock.com)

Why Paul Ryan Didn’t Shut Down the Government

In his first weeks on the job, House Speaker Paul Ryan faced a whole bunch of “first tests.” But none was bigger than trying to avoid a government shutdown when the continuing resolution keeping agencies open expired in early December.

In an appearance Tuesday on conservative talk radio host Bill Bennett’s show, Ryan was asked why he didn’t just let government shut down. Here’s what he said:

We didn’t want to hurt the military. Shutting it down deprives the troops of their pay. It deprives the men and women who are out there fighting for us of their resources. You’ve heard me as a strong, strong critic of Obama’s foreign policy and his ISIS policy. We have to go on offense in the war on terror. We have to go on offense internationally. By shutting the government down, you are bringing the military to a screeching halt. We do not want to use the men and women in our uniform as political pawns in this game. We want to get this behind us.

This is interesting on several levels. First of all, it’s a little misleading to say a shutdown “deprives the troops...

Wasteful Government Project or Indie Rock Band?

Earlier this week, Sen. Jeff Flake released a study called Wastebook: The Farce Awakens, a painfully Star Wars-themed report detailing what his office characterized as “egregious, outrageous and unnecessary government spending.”

The report continues a tradition established by former Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla., of issuing annual, barbed reports on questionable federally funded projects. (And Flake’s not the only one to pick up Coburn’s mantle. Sen. James Lankford, R-Okla., released his own waste report, called Federal Fumbles -- a painfully football-themed study -- in late November.)

Late night talk show host Jimmy Kimmel took notice of Flake’s report and developed a quiz for his studio audience to test whether they could tell the difference between the senator’s description of allegedly wasteful federal projects and the names of independent rock bands. The examples he provided:

  • Sheep in Microgravity
  • Jets to Brazil
  • Super Furry Animals
  • Life-Sized Pac-Man
  • Car Seat Headrest
  • Suspicious Bar Coasters

Can you tell which is which? Watch the clip below for the answers.

By the way, lest the waste-watching senators get too self-congratulatory about their efforts, Kimmel said that “most projects on the list are science experiments that sound dumb if you don’t bother to learn...