Category Archives: Government

Meet the Trump Cabinet

Source: Government Executive, 2016

Few presidential transitions have been as fraught with uncertainty as the one associated with the incoming Trump Administration. While candidate Donald Trump pledged to repeal the Affordable Care Act, deport millions of undocumented immigrants, build a wall across the Southwest border with Mexico, renegotiate trade deals and redefine international partnerships, it’s not at all clear what President Trump may actually do once he’s in office. To understand how the man who promised to “fire stupid people” and shake up Washington might actually govern, its useful to consider the men and women he has tapped for his Cabinet. While the Senate still must confirm Trump’s picks, they offer insight into how he may manage the federal bureaucracy…”

2016 Plum Book Now Available

Source: U.S. Government Publishing Office (GPO), December 1, 2016

From the press release:
GPO Releases United States Policy and Supporting Positions
The U.S. Government Publishing Office (GPO) has made the 2016 United States Policy and Supporting Positions, or the “The Plum Book”, available on govinfo and as a mobile web app (no download required). Previous editions of the Plum Book, back to 1996, are also available on govinfo.
Plum Book for 2016
Browse all editions of the Plum Book, 1996-2012
Plum Book mobile web app

About the Plum Book
Published by the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs and House Committee on Government Reform alternately after each Presidential election, the Plum Book lists over 9,000 Federal civil service leadership and support positions in the legislative and executive branches of the Federal Government that may be subject to noncompetitive appointment, nationwide. The duties of many such positions may involve advocacy of Administration policies and programs and the incumbents usually have a close and confidential working relationship with the agency or other key officials.

The list originated in 1952 during the Eisenhower administration. For twenty-two years prior, the Democrats controlled the Federal Government. When President Eisenhower took office, the Republican Party requested a list of government positions that President Eisenhower could fill. The next edition of the Plum Book appeared in 1960 and has since been published every four years, just after the Presidential election.

It’s Complicated: Americans’ Relationship with the Federal Government Goes Beyond Distrust

Source: Carroll Doherty, Capitol Ideas, Vol. 59 no. 2, March/April 2016
(scroll down)

Ask some Americans about the federal government and they bluntly describe its flaws and failings. Ask them about what the government should do, and they tell a very different story. Carroll Doherty explains the results of a recent Pew Research Center national survey on public distrust of government.
Beyond Distrust: How Americans View Their Government
Source: Pew Research Center, November 23, 2015
Broad criticism, but positive performance ratings in many areas


Source: U.S. Government Publishing Office, 2016

From the Q&A:
What is govinfo and how do I access it?

govinfo is GPO’s beta website that will eventually replace the FDsys website. The availability of this new website has no impact on the content, metadata, preservation repository, application of digital signatures, or any other back end processing of the content. This means all content available through this site is the same content you would get through the FDsys website. Simply put, govinfo is the new front door to accessing the same content and it is available at

Is everything that is available on FDsys available on govinfo?

Right now, all content available on FDsys is available on govinfo by conducting searches and clicking the format links in the search results. You can get to any pdf, xml, text or any other content file that is available on FDsys.

However, not all browse pages or detail pages have been built yet for every collection. For a list of all collections and publications and how they are currently available, refer to What’s Available below.

What are the differences between FDsys and govinfo?

govinfo is the new front door to accessing the same official, preserved content that GPO has made available through FDsys for the last seven years. The govinfo website will eventually replace the FDsys website, but the new website does not have any impact on GPO’s policies, practices, and procedures regarding the long-term digital preservation or authentication of content.

govinfo is a redesign of the FDsys public website, with a focus on implementing feedback from users and improving overall search and access to FDsys content. The redesigned, mobile-friendly website incorporates state-of-the-art innovative technologies and includes several new features for an overall enhanced user experience.

The key new features include:
– a new modern look and feel,
– the capability to link related content,
– two new ways to browse content: alphabetically and by category,
– a new open-source search engine,
– enhancements to the search filters, and
– more options for sharing pages and content on social media.

To learn more about the new features and enhancements govinfo has to offer, refer to Release Notes – govinfo Beta Launch….

Recent Publications:
Congressional Record
Daily Digest for today’s Congressional Record
Federal Register
Table of Contents for today’s issue of the Federal Register
House Calendar
Most recent Calendars of the United States House of Representatives
Senate Calendar
Most recent Senate Calendar of Business
Most Recent Documents
Documents published in the last 24 hrs
Most Recent Bills
Bills published in the last 24 hrs

Browsing Features:
A to Z
Browse documents by alphabetical order
Browse documents in specific collections
Browse documents within a timeframe or date range
Browse documents by the issuing committee
Author (coming soon!)
Browse documents by government authors

Intra-Agency Coordination

Source: Jennifer Nou, University of Chicago Coase-Sandor Institute for Law & Economics Research Paper No. 735, September 30, 2015

From the abstract:
Conventional accounts portray agency design as the outcome of congressional and presidential quests for political control. This perspective aligns with administrative law’s preoccupation with agencies’ external constraints. The main unit of analysis from this point of view is the agency, and the central question is how political principals outside of the agency restrain it. In reality, however, agency actors must also abide by controls internal to the agency: how do these mechanisms arise and what explains their design? For their part, legislative and executive specifications invariably leave organizational slack. Agency heads thus possess substantial discretion to impose internal structures and processes to further their own interests. By and large, however, agency heads have been neglected as important determinants of institutional design. Indeed, like the need for interagency coordination, the bureaucracy requires intra-agency coordination.

This Article seeks to provide a general account of how agency heads, distinct from Congress or the President, manage and operate their organizational divisions. It presents a theory of how administrative leaders use internal hierarchies and procedures to process information in light of their individual preferences and exogenous uncertainties. In doing so, this Article offers a conceptual framework to analyze agency design problems as well as to explain variations in bureaucratic form. Armed with these insights, the analysis then considers some of the resulting normative implications for political and legal oversight. It concludes by suggesting various reforms such as the judicially enforceable disclosure of agencies’ internal rule-drafting processes, as well as doctrines further designed to foster transparency and accountability.

Big and Open Linked Data (BOLD) in government: A challenge to transparency and privacy?

Source: Marijn Janssen, Jeroen van den Hoven, Government Information Quarterly, Volume 32, Issue 4, October 2015
(subscription required)

From the abstract:
• Transparency and privacy should be conceptualized as complex constructs.
• Transparency and information silos are essential for protecting privacy.
• Need for privacy-by-design and transparency-by-design
• Acceptable levels of privacy and transparency need to be balanced taking many factors into account.

Big and Open Linked Data (BOLD) results in new opportunities and have the potential to transform government and its interactions with the public. BOLD provides the opportunity to analyze the behavior of individuals, increase control, and reduce privacy. At the same time BOLD can be used to create an open and transparent government. Transparency and privacy are considered as important societal and democratic values that are needed to inform citizens and let them participate in democratic processes. Practices in these areas are changing with the rise of BOLD. Although intuitively appealing, the concepts of transparency and privacy have many interpretations and are difficult to conceptualize, which makes it often hard to implement them. Transparency and privacy should be conceptualized as complex, non-dichotomous constructs interrelated with other factors. Only by conceptualizing these values in this way, the nature and impact of BOLD on privacy and transparency can be understood, and their levels can be balanced with security, safety, openness and other socially-desirable values.

How to Locate an Unpublished Congressional Hearing: A Beginner’s Guide

Source: Barbara Bavis, Robert Brammer, Law Library of Congress, In Custodia Legis: Law Librarians of Congress blog, September 17, 2015

Our previous post discussed how to locate a Published Congressional Hearing. In this guide, we will show you how to locate unpublished congressional hearings, which can often pose more of a challenge to researchers new to the area. Congressional hearings have not always been consistently published. In fact, the transcription of congressional committee hearings was not required until the passage of the Legislative Reorganization Act in 1946. Further, despite the requirement for transcription, the retention and publication of these transcripts is not guaranteed. As such, it is not out of the ordinary for a congressional committee or subcommittee to have not officially published a hearing. Many of these “unpublished” hearings have since been made publicly available from sources including the National Archives, the Congressional Information Service (CIS), Congressional Quarterly, and ProQuest, among many others. Please read on to determine how to start your unpublished congressional hearing research.

The Job of Government: Interweaving Public Functions and Private Hands

Source: Donald F. Kettl, Public Administration Review, Vol. 75 Issue 2, March/April 2015
(subscription required)

From the abstract:
Lively and sometimes raucous debate about the job of government has increasingly engulfed American politics. Much of that debate has swirled around government’s size, with conservatives arguing the case for shrinking government and liberals fighting to grow it. In reality, however, neither of these debates engages the critical underlying trend: the increasing interweaving of governmental functions deeply into every fiber of the nongovernmental sectors. Many reforms have sought to rein in government’s power, but none has engaged the fundamental interweaving of policy implementation, and, not surprisingly, most have failed. Indeed, many have eroded the public’s trust in the governmental institutions on which they depend. This process raises fundamental challenges for defining government’s core role, for building the capacity to govern effectively, and for enhancing the accountability of governmental programs. Many of government’s administrative tools are a poor match for the governance problems they seek to solve.

Ten Secret Truths About Government Incompetence

Source: Donald F. Kettl, Washington Monthly, Vol. 47 nos. 1 & 2, January/February 2015

What you can learn from the management mistakes of Obama and Bush.

I. Government works better than people think. Most of the time. …..
II. Good management doesn’t win elections—but bad management can ruin presidencies. Fast. …..
III. We don’t distinguish between failures that are truly consequential and those that have lesser impact. …..
IV. We say we want to run government more like the private sector— but we expect government to meet standards that the private sector could never manage. …..
V. Much of government’s work isn’t done by government. …..
VI. The problem isn’t too many bureaucrats—it’s too few. …..
VII. Half the time, when it looks like it’s the president’s fault, the problems really come from Congress. …..
VIII. Critics of your government will create self-fulfilling prophecies by underfunding and otherwise sabotaging programs they don’t like. …..
IX. Government can be made much better relatively quickly—and can be made worse even more quickly. …..
X. Presidents can win the game if they pay attention. …..