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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.

VA Does Not Stand For 'Veterans Administration'

The 2016 presidential campaign has been everything except predictable. But we can count on one thing: At any given moment, an Oval Office hopeful somewhere is screwing up the name of the Veterans Affairs Department.

Both Republican and Democratic candidates consistently call the Veterans Affairs Department the “Veterans Administration” during debates, rallies, town halls and other public remarks. That would be fine if it were the 1980s, and Ronald Reagan were president.

But in March 1989 – nearly 27 years ago -- the Veterans Administration was renamed the Veterans Affairs Department. (Reagan elevated the VA to a Cabinet-level department in October 1988, and the change took effect in March 1989 under President George H. W. Bush.) Yet current and former 2016 presidential candidates – many of whom have served in public office for some time – can’t quite seem to get the name right. 

A few examples:

I will fight to protect and preserve the Veterans Administration.” – Democratic Sen. Bernie Sanders during the Feb. 18 MSNBC/Telemundo town hall. Sanders is a member of the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee and is a former chairman of the panel.

“I'd like to ask all the veterans listening out there tonight, who are waiting in...

I’m Not a ‘Big Government, Crazy Liberal,’ Obama Insists

As President Obama’s second term draws to a close, he’s not exactly taking a victory lap. But he is making a concerted effort to challenge the perception that he’s a lover of big government who has spent his time in office seeking to expand the federal footprint.

On Monday, the president insisted in a question and answer session at a National Governors Association gathering that he in fact took a measured approach to the role of government in the economy -- if only to save himself and his administration from creating too much work for themselves.

Obama’s remarks came in the context of a discussion of regulatory reform, in which he said he was open to trimming unnecessary rules, and that he didn’t really want that many in the first place:

If any of you doubt my claim that we have actually eliminated a whole bunch of regulations, we can give you a whole manual. [OMB Director] Shaun Donovan knows because I’ve charged him with this. …

I do not believe in regulation for regulation’s sake -- contrary to rumor.  This idea that somehow I get a kick out of big government is just not the...

Ted Cruz vs. ‘Plush-Bottomed Bureaucrats’

In a major address on the future of the U.S. military in South Carolina Tuesday, GOP presidential contender Ted Cruz laid out an expansive vision of a beefed-up force that would project power all over the world.

But Cruz, who has previously said the United States should “carpet bomb” the Islamic State into submission, also took a stand firmly in favor of military commanders, and against the civilian leadership of the Defense Department.

"Combat is death, honor and chaos," Cruz said in his speech. "The last thing any commander should need to worry about is the grades he is getting from some plush-bottomed Pentagon bureaucrat for political correctness or social experiments--or providing gluten-free MREs."

Setting aside the question of whether gluten-free MREs (that’s meals ready-to-eat, for those not familiar with the Pentagon’s lingo for food eaten in the field) are even a thing--apparently the policies on providing them differ by military service--Cruz’s comment spoke to an evident disdain for the current approach to civilian oversight of military operations.

Indeed, his official plan for growing the size of the military states: “We will scale back on the bloated bureaucracy and social experiments, and we will invest...

Presidential Hopefuls Rip Wasteful Bureaucracy--and That’s Just the Democrats

The two remaining Democratic presidential candidates, Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders, have long and longer lists of initiatives the federal government should undertake or beef up, in areas ranging from job creation to health care.

Clinton has sought to position herself as the more moderate of the two candidates–charging in Thursday night’s PBS Democratic debate in Milwaukee, for example, that Sanders’ proposals would increase the size of the federal government by 40 percent. But she also advocates for a more muscular federal presence in areas such as clean energy, early childhood education and infrastructure investment.

Clinton and Sanders spend proportionately less time talking about what they might cut from government. But the subject does come up from time to time, and it did again in the Thursday’s debate. A Facebook questioner asked Sanders whether there were “any areas of government you would like to reduce?"

Sanders, and then Clinton, were quick to say they weren’t fans of everything government does. Here’s their exchange, according to a Washington Post transcript:

Sanders: Hey, I'm in the United States Senate, and anyone who doesn't think that there is an enormous amount of waste and inefficiency and...

OPM Seeks To Honor (and Reward) Top-Performing Executives

The Office of Personnel Management issued a call this week for federal agencies to nominate high-performing senior executives for recognition and bonuses in the Presidential Rank Awards program.

“Federal senior executive employees perform valuable services on behalf of the American public and those with the highest level of sustained performance deserve recognition for their contributions,” wote OPM Acting Director Beth Cobert in opening the nomination process. Nevertheless, she added, “nominees must meet stringent personal and professional standards; therefore, agencies should expect an extremely rigorous review process.”

Cobert also warned agencies to “consider the current challenging fiscal conditions and resources needed to meet overall agency mission priorities in determining the number of nominations to submit.”

Last year, 24 senior executives were awarded the rank of Presidential Distinguished Executive for their performance in 2014, and another 89 were designated as Meritorious Executives. The number of top honorees has steadily declined in recent years: In 2010, 66 executives were awarded the distinguished rank; in 2011 the figure was 54; and in 2012, 46 executives received the top designation.

The Presidential Rank Awards were canceled in 2013 for the first time since their creation in 1978. At the time, Obama administration officials cited concerns...