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The Interior Secretary Went to Work on Horseback. Here’s How Other Cabinet Secretaries Should Commute

Newly confirmed Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke arrived at work in novel fashion Thursday: astride a horse. Flanked by mounted U.S. Park Police officers, the cowboy-hatted Zinke rode through the streets of Washington like he was back home in Montana.

This got me thinking: Outside of Zinke, Cabinet secretaries have shown a distinct lack of imagination when it comes to how they commute. So here are some unsolicited suggestions:

  • State: In a horse-drawn carriage, with footmen
  • Treasury: By armored truck
  • Justice: In a police cruiser
  • Agriculture: Riding atop a tractor (it wouldn’t be the first time someone took to the streets of D.C. in one)
  • Commerce: Via Uber or Lyft
  • Labor: On the subway, like a regular working stiff
  • Defense: Driving a tank (while making sure to avoid the Mike Dukakis look)
  • Health and Human Services: In the back of an ambulance
  • Housing and Urban Development: By using Bikeshare
  • Transportation: Gotta use ‘em all: plane, train, and automobile
  • Energy: Via solar-powered car
  • Education: On a school bus, of course
  • Veterans Affairs: In an official Veterans Transportation Service vehicle
  • Homeland Security: In a helicopter (preferably black)

Why Trump Has Made So Few Appointments

As president, Donald Trump has the opportunity and the obligation to name about 4,000 people to fill political appointee slots — and more than 1,000 of those jobs require Senate confirmation. So far, he’s filled only a tiny fraction of them. Of the 549 positions the Partnership for Public Service and the Washington Post have identified as critical to a well-functioning administration, only 15 had been confirmed as of Monday. Another 18 have been named and are awaiting confirmation.

Why is this the case? The consensus seems to be that the White House is in disarray, that Trump is in over his head, and that he’s micromanaging the process of naming subordinates by refusing to allow Cabinet secretaries to put their own teams in place. And it’s certainly true that Trump and his top advisers are still getting their sea legs, and coming to grips with the mammoth task of managing the federal bureaucracy.

The Partnership for Public Service recommends that presidents fill the top 100 department and agency leadership positions shortly after the inauguration, and another 300 slots by August of their first year in office. Trump is falling well short of that standard. But...

Is President Trump Getting a Federal Paycheck?

When Donald Trump became president on Jan. 20, he immediately went on the federal payroll at a $400,000 annual salary. But he’s pledged to take virtually none of it.

During the campaign, Trump declared that he would not accept a paycheck if elected. (“That’s no big deal for me,” he said.) After Trump won, he said he would work for $1 a year, apparently operating under the assumption that the law required him to accept some remuneration.

But whatever level of salary presidents receive, they can’t just decline to take the pay they are due by statute. They either have to return the money to the Treasury or donate it to charity to achieve the goal of working for free.

Last week, the Tampa Bay Times asked the White House if Trump had started getting paychecks yet, and if so, what he was doing with the money. Officials didn’t respond to the question of whether Trump had been paid for his first month of service, but confirmed he wouldn’t be taking his salary when it came his way.

"He is required to get a paycheck, but will be giving it back to [the] Treasury...

A Pep Talk for Federal Employees from NIH’s Collins

As with sequestration in 2013, federal employees now are living in “another of those uncertain times,” said Francis Collins, the award-winning physician-geneticist who directs the National Institutes of Health.

They also are “an amazing group of dedicated, talented and hard-working people who are often unappreciated,” he said on Wednesday at a panel discussion staged by the nonprofit Partnership for Public Service to discuss a new survey showing gaps between agencies on employee engagement.

Feds are competitive, Collins added. Folks at NIH with its 27 institutes and centers and 17,000 employees did not fail to notice that they were “edged out” on workforce survey scores by peers at the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, the Food and Drug Administration, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

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NIH for the first time, Collins said, recently released its data from the survey in the name of transparency, despite some staff nervousness.

“NIH is not just an institution, though we are that, but we’re a community,” in which employees are not just “cogs in a wheel,” Collins said. He regularly updates staff on “good news...

Mattis Takes on the Pentagon Bureaucracy

In a pair of memos to his deputy last Friday, Defense Secretary James Mattis signaled his readiness for battle against an especially entrenched foe—the department’s sprawling bureaucracy.  

Both memos support requirements in the 2017 National Defense Authorization Act and aim to address concerns on Capitol Hill about Pentagon efficiency. In one memo, Mattis asked Deputy Defense Secretary Robert Work to lead a broad review of the department’s business operations with an eye to centralizing some functions now handled separately by the military services. “We have sometimes allowed our focus on service uniqueness to extend into business operations, leading to duplication of effort and costs we can no longer afford,” Mattis wrote.

Work certainly has a decent blueprint for his starting point (something Mattis pointed out in his directive): the Defense Business Board’s 2015 study “Transforming DoD’s Core Business Processes for Revolutionary Change,” which Work supported.

It appears that virtually everything is now on the table. As Mattis wrote:  

“I direct you to further this work by exploring efficiencies across the following core business functions: human resource management; financial management (to include improvements in cost accounting); real property management; acquisition and contract management; logistics and supply...

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