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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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How Come FBI’s McCabe Gets to Take Leave Before Retiring?

In reading news reports about the abrupt departure of FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe yesterday, I was struck by one aspect of the story.

As the Washington Post reported, “McCabe had planned to retire in March and use accrued vacation time to reach the date he becomes eligible for full pension benefits. On Monday, people close to the matter confirmed that McCabe’s plan is unchanged. Technically, he will remain an FBI employee for the next several weeks, but he has left the deputy director position and is not expected to return to work, these people said.”

Using up vacation time immediately before retirement is what’s known as “terminal leave,” and ordinarily it’s a no-no for civilian federal employees. In 1945, the Comptroller General of the United States ruled that “terminal annual or vacation leave may not be granted immediately prior to separation from service in any case where it is known in advance that an employee is to be separated from service.”

It’s pretty clear to everybody at this stage that McCabe is not coming back to the FBI. So how is this happening?

Well, as is so often the case in government, there are loopholes...

Critics Decry 'Propaganda' Posters in EPA Offices

The Environmental Protection Agency wants its employees to know it is proud of all they accomplished in 2017, even if that amounted to undoing the work they did in 2016.

In an array of posters displayed at EPA offices across the country, the agency is applauding “a year of great environmental achievements for America.” The posters include among notable accomplishments the preliminary repeal of the Obama administration's Clean Power Plan and walking back the Waters of the United States rulemaking. In a display listing its “New Environmental Achievements,” EPA notes it provided “confidence for American families” and “certainty for American businesses.”   

The agency also boasted that its Superfund taskforce is “encouraging private investment” while expediting cleanup and land reuse.

The displays include a photograph of President Trump’s swearing-in ceremony, photos of Trump with EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt and photos of Pruitt surrounded by agency staff. They were first reported by Eric Lipton of The New York Times.

John O'Grady, president of the American Federation of Government Employees council that represents 9,000 EPA employees, called...

CDC To Brief the Public on Responding to a Nuclear Attack

As the war of words between President Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un escalated this week, stoking worries about nuclear conflict, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced a briefing later this month on the public health response to a nuclear detonation.

“While a nuclear detonation is unlikely, it would have devastating results and there would be limited time to take critical protection steps,” the CDC said in a statement yesterday promoting the Jan. 16 briefing, first reported by STAT news.

“Despite the fear surrounding such an event, planning and preparation can lessen deaths and illness. For instance, most people don’t realize that sheltering in place for at least 24 hours is crucial to saving lives and reducing exposure to radiation,” the agency said.

The event will feature speakers from CDC, the Food and Drug Administration and the Georgia Department of Health, who will discuss “preparing for the unthinkable,” response plans, public health resources and related issues. It is part of CDC’s virtual Public Health Grand Rounds series aimed at educating health professionals.

Homeland Security Brings Explosive Detection Training to D.C.-Area Police Dogs

When it comes to detecting explosives, the Homeland Security Department considers dogs — and their noses — to be man's best friend.

Canine explosive detection units from seven D.C.-area state and local law enforcement agencies gathered at the Capital One Arena Wednesday to train, collect data and share information. The two-day session is part of the DHS Regional Explosives Detection Dog Initiative, which began earlier this year to assist local police departments and the approximately 4,000 canine units used to sniff out deadly explosive materials.

The event consisted of "odor recognition trials" for the explosives-sniffing dogs set up in and around the D.C. arena, including the facility's garage, kitchens, hallways and suites. According to DHS, REDDI uses a variety of scents that mimic explosive materials, including a set of proprietary non-hazardous peroxide training aids developed by the department's Science and Technology Directorate.

Wednesday's portion of the session included dogs searching an arena suite for potential threats. A sample smell was placed under a stool in the arena and canine units searched for a scent. DHS Science and Technology staff logged the results of the tests for further data collection at the department. Different dogs...

Public Service Reformers to Unions: Get On Board

Government employee unions do plenty of good for their members, but too often they act as impediments to creating an effective 21st century civil service.

So said an array of good-government activists who gathered for a symposium Thursday to celebrate the 90th birthday of longtime government reformer and former Federal Reserve Chairman Paul Volcker.

Unions too often are “fighting the last war,” said Don Kettl, professor of public policy at the University of Maryland, during a panel on how government should respond to technological disruptions and citizen mistrust. In Wisconsin, for example, unions “are perceived as helping Democrats” so that Republicans, led by Gov. Scott Walker, “feed on that sense of partisanship” as they seek to curb union power.

For government to be more nimble and catch up with the private sector in providing reliable customer service, it will need to bring new workers into the workforce, Kettl said at the event at the U.S. Institute of Peace, sponsored by the nonprofit Volcker Alliance. “We need to get unions to fight the next war.”

There is something to be said for the private sector’s “at will” employment that makes firings easier, said author and Stanford University scholar Francis...