Want Better Government? Pay Better – Plus The 7 Gov Stories

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But up front: Want Better Government? Pay Better

Earlier this week I mentioned the report from the Partnership for Public Service and Booz Allen Hamilton about reforming the civil service system, “Building the Enterprise: A New Civil Service Framework,” [PDF]. Given the challenges with government personnel, it is an important report and worth reading… and on Monday, we will talk to Ron Sanders about it. Dr. Ronald Sanders is a Vice President at Booz Allen Hamilton and the firm’s Booz Allen Hamilton Fellow. Of course, previously Ron Sanders served as the US Intelligence Community’s Associate Director of National Intelligence and first chief human capital officer.

One of the big issues, of course, is whether any of the recommendations could happen in a fractious government that seems unable to get anything done, let alone the challenging issue of reforming an antiquated civil service system.

Norm Ornstein, the respected scholar at the American Enterprise Institute, makes that point. Writing in The National Journal, How Can Government Prevent a Leadership Vacuum?, Ornstein writes:

Government can't compete with Google and Microsoft for top talent when it offers pay freezes and stripped-down benefits: What to do? A penetrating new report by the Partnership for Public Service offers a passel of ideas as it calls for sweeping reforms. They include building a more market-sensitive labor system; merging many disparate personnel systems into one to level the playing field across government in the competition for talent; creating more flexibility for agencies to hire the best qualified people; creating pay-raise-for-performance incentives (and no raises for slackers) to improve performance management; creating a four-tier senior executive service to train managers better for the complex jobs they will have; and reducing the number of political-appointment positions to enable talented career managers to have more opportunities to advance. The report makes a compelling case, one that actually reinforces many previous efforts at reform, for commonsense changes in an antiquated and unwieldy system. They have no partisan or ideological coloration—just sound management principles. It has been more than 35 years since the last major reform of the system. I wish I could be even modestly optimistic that the report will generate enough interest to get hearings and the start of a deliberative process, one that in the past might have been encouraged by respected lawmakers like Tom Davis and Frank Wolf. But with Davis retired and Wolf about to join him, and with the harsh anti-government attitude ascendant, I can't.

I should note, the highlight is mine, not his.

Orntein has also written in The Atlantic: Want Effective Government? Then You Have to Pay Decent Salaries:

The shutdown moved at least some of the discussion and perception away from the deep hostility Americans have for bureaucrats and bureaucracy, and the antipathy huge majorities in the country feel toward Washington, and made the stories personal and the image concrete. Park rangers, research scientists, Border Patrol agents, first responders, disaster-relief personnel, FBI agents, firefighters, air-traffic controllers, Foreign Service officers, and many more people who make Americans’ lives safer and easier, and protect our well-being and security, are all, in the parlance, “bureaucrats.” But their jobs are vital, and the overwhelming majority of federal employees are conscientious people who take their jobs seriously and work very hard at them.

There are few issues more important to building a good government than fixing the antiquated civil service system. The Partnership for Public Service deserves credit for keeping this important issue on the agenda.

Finally, a Congressional Research Service report: Selected Characteristics of Private and Public Sector Workers [PDF] (Thanks to the Federation of American Scientists, which work to make CRS reports like this one public.) The report makes no conclusions, but it is filled with data comparing the public and private sector workforce.

The SEVEN stories that impact your life

  1. Washington Post: Fort Hood shooter showed ‘no sign of likely violence,’ probe finds - “A preliminary investigation into the soldier who shot dead three people at Fort Hood, Tex., indicates that he showed no "sign of any likely violence either to himself or others," according to Army Secretary John McHugh. McHugh said the soldier had seen a psychiatrist as recently as last month and was undergoing treatment for depression, anxiety and other conditions.”

  2. GovInfoSecurity: GAO: Federal Incident Response is Erratic - “A forthcoming report from the Government Accountability Office says that major U.S. federal government agencies, for the most part, failed to respond effectively to cyber-incidents.”  

    1. Read the GAO report: Federal Agencies Need to Enhance Responses to Data Breaches

  3. Politico: State Department Leaker Sentenced to 13 Months - “A former State Department contractor who admitted leaking the contents of a highly classified report on North Korea to Fox News has been sentenced to 13 months in prison, the Justice Department announced on Wednesday. Stephen Kim pleaded guilty in February to one count of making an unauthorized disclosure of national defense information.”

  4. GovExec: Supreme Court Declines Case Involving Due Process for Feds in ‘Sensitive’ Positions - “The Supreme Court this week denied a hearing on a lower court decision that prevents federal employees in national security ‘sensitive’ positions from appealing terminations or demotions, effectively allowing the ruling to stand.

  5. Federal News Radio: NASA Cuts Ties with Russia Except on Space Station - “After insisting that space relations wouldn't be altered by earthly politics, NASA on Wednesday said it was severing ties with Russia except for the International Space Station. NASA employees can't travel to Russia or host visitors until further notice. They're also barred from emailing or holding teleconferences with their Russian counterparts because of Russia's actions in Ukraine, according to a memo sent to workers.

  6. New York Times: After Push by Obama, Minimum Wage Action is Moving to the States - “In the last 14 months, since Mr. Obama first called for the wage increase in his 2013 State of the Union address, seven states and the District of Columbia have raised their own minimum wages, and 34 states have begun legislative debates on the matter.”

  7. GovExec: House Panel Approves Plan to Increase Feds’ Pension Contributions - “A House panel on Wednesday approved a fiscal 2015 budget resolution that would require federal employees to contribute more to their pensions and shrink the government workforce.”

DorobekINSIDER water-cooler fodder... yes, we’re trying to help you make your water-cooler time better too...

  • Why It Sucks to Be CBO [National Journal] The congressional number cruncher is a favorite target of both the Left and the Right: How to convince both sides that you are a credible, neutral organization when everyone is constantly accusing you of wronging them? It's especially tough in today's hyper-partisan D.C. "I don't worry about our ability to do objective work," the current director, Douglas Elmendorf, said at a recent event hosted by The Atlantic, which, like National Journal, is part of Atlantic Media. "I spend more time worrying about the perception of our objectivity." It turns out that CBO directors have over the years put a lot of effort into trying to address this problem. I recently spoke with six former directors and one acting director about how they navigated this terrain. (Elmendorf declined to comment.) Alice Rivlin, who was CBO's first director, in 1975, cites some seemingly small logistical details—such as making sure that Republicans and Democrats received reports at the same time—as keys to maintaining an air of objectivity. "We tried very hard to make sure that the majority and the minority had equal treatment, equal notice, equal number of copies," she recalls.

  • Hawaii First State to Propose Civic Crowdfunding Legislation [PBS’s Idea Lab]: Hawaii has become the first state to propose a bill supporting civic crowdfunding, as it seeks to raise funds for the maintenance and repair of local schools.  HB2631 outlines a pilot program in which two maintenance projects at Hawaii schools are selected for public crowdfunding campaigns. The pilot would be operated by Hawaii 3R’s (Repair, Remode, Restore our Schools), a 501(c)(3) organization started by the late Democratic Senator Daniel Inouye in 2001 to raise private funds to contribute to the backlog in school maintenance projects in Hawaii.  Here’s how it would work, if approved:  Hawaii 3R’s selects the two projects for the pilot, in consultation with the Hawaii department of education. Projects must be “initiated by a member of the community and approved by” the school concerned. Hawaii donates matching funds to Hawaii 3R’s up to a maximum of $50,000 per project. 10 percent of the overall funds raised are donated to a Hawaii school that qualifies for Federal Financial Assistance.

  • Apps continue to cast a longer shadow over consumer habits [Flurry]: The average U.S. consumer increased the amount of time spent on a mobile device to 2 hours and 42 minutes a day, up from 2 hours and 38 minutes in March 2013, according to a report from Flurry. And apps were by far the biggest part of that, commanding 86% of the average mobile user’s time, compared to just 14% on the mobile Web.

  • Hey, Robot: Which Cat Is Cuter? [The New York Times Magazine]:  Crowdworking platforms are advancing the speed at which robots can do anything - and everything - better than humans.

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