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Agency Reviews Start Monday

By Ed O'Keefe

Federal employees: Take note! Get a haircut and wear your best suit to work on Monday, because that's when Obama transition team members may show up in your office to start reviewing “over 100 departments, agencies and commissions of the United States government," according to Obama transition co-chairman John Podesta.

John Podesta
John Podesta, the co-chairman of Obama's transition team. (Tim Sloan/AFP/Getty Images)

The former White House chief of staff said the agency review teams "will ensure that senior appointees have the information necessary to complete their confirmation process, lead their departments and begin implementing signature policy initiatives immediately after they're sworn in.”

In a demonstration of unprecedented transition transparency, Podesta said his team will publicly release the names of every person on the agency review teams and those that will enter the agencies for review.

"They will be posted on our Web site,, as they are cleared to do their work," Podesta said. "A list of team leaders with short bios will be available later this week. Other team members will be posted on the Web site when cleared, but prior to their entry into the agencies." The transition Web site currently has a list of names but no biographies of those leading up the transition.

We know however that Melody Barnes and Lisa Brown will serve as the transition's co-directors of agency review. Barnes used to work at the Center for American Progress, the group that Podesta heads and is currently on leave from.

Last Fall Barnes was named one of Washingtonian Magazine's "Ten Well Dressed Women."

Brown is on a leave of absence from her role as executive director of the American Constitution Society. She served as counsel to Vice President Al Gore, earned a B.A. in political economy from Princeton University in 1982 (Michelle Obama's alma matter) and received a law degree from the University of Chicago Law School in 1986.

The transition itself will employ roughly 450 people, Podesta said, with a budget of at least $12 million. It will maintain offices in Washington and at the federal building in Chicago. We can expect President-elect Obama to publicly announce all cabinet-level appointments from Chicago and less-senior appointments will be announced as necessary.

So what do you think the Obama team's reviews will unearth? Do you have any suggestions for what they should look for? Leave your thoughts in the comments section below.

By Ed O'Keefe  | November 11, 2008; 4:30 PM ET
Categories:  Revolving Door  
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Next: The Eye Opener: Nov. 12, 2008


heard from a very strong source that Philadelphia's Judge Nelson A. Diaz is up for Secretary of HUD. He was HUD's General Counsel under President Clinton and knows the terrain. What's more, the Brookings Institute is publishing a book on Housing and it cites the Diaz Opinion as the cause for the success of the HOPE IV (hope 6) program. Judge Diaz's opinion allowed leveraging of public and private financing and partnerships with private sector by the Public Housing Authorities that was never done before. He'd be a great choice.

Posted by: koufax | November 11, 2008 6:27 PM | Report abuse

One single thing will be found at most of the agencies...individuals who were put in place to see that all rules agreed with the Bush policy. This spread alot of non-science into science as one example . So I think that Barnes and Brown will find
1. HHS has put in place policy people who have gagged or stopped research into most things related to birth control and global warming, as some examples.
2. EPA - a gag on all things global warming by the same strategy
3. Total lack of oversight into government contract agencies, ie., competitive bids.
4. A large set of people who were hired because they knew someone or were in the correct party .. ie., a mess with the government service hiring system.

You need a team of workhorses who are familiar with each section, will vary with each, ask for volunteers to come to DC and do this for several weeks. Example, scientists for science, etc. This is already done for external grant reviews as with NSF and NIH. Use these same individuals to help.


Posted by: dtak | November 11, 2008 6:53 PM | Report abuse

A whole lot of research has been done by the blogs on the DOJ and BLM. Please do not hesitate to place a call out for voluntary research help....we have the goods. ePluribusMedia always has the lights on!

Posted by: avahome | November 11, 2008 7:57 PM | Report abuse

Review teams should try to look for what's worked as well as what may be negative legacy initiatives or programs from the Bush administration. There may also be ways to retool or fix what hasn't worked so well, but may be a good idea. The challenge is whether there will be enough staff with the substantive background and with enough time to do a thorough job. It would also be very profitable for these teams to meet and talk with career civil servants -- as opposed to just departmental or agency top-brass. The former also know the meat of current and recent Federal government business. They're the ones that support or implement it.

Posted by: fow2s | November 11, 2008 8:07 PM | Report abuse

"...So what do you think the Obama team's reviews will unearth? Do you have any suggestions for what they should look for? Leave your thoughts in the comments section below."

Ok, I am below now but you gots to be kidding right ?

Let's review some termonology with complete sentences. I will fill in some blanks here.

A Bush43 Federal Employee: "I serve George W. Bush".

A normal Presidency: I served (the public) under the Clinton Administration.

Well, how about the Maverick ? He voted against President George W. Bush 9 percent of the time, wowo. What a Maverick, hold him back, he is a wildman. Or did McCain suffer from a personal identity crisis ? Military people generally serve the Commander-in-Chief. Surge on that for awhile.

pssst, all joking aside, Grandpa is a hero but he is a lousy jet fighter pilot. I do know a good pilot or two, don't I ?

Posted by: truthhurts | November 11, 2008 8:38 PM | Report abuse

am concerned that too many young--or well dressed--people will be interogating scared, ill prepared government lifers. predictable result--conclusions that government is worthless. it isn't.
Obama is going to be a great president, but he really needs to be careful dealing with the career people--in order to push aside the useless, the hidden Palinistas, or the dumb. there are plenty of good ones left, but the need to be led carefully.

Posted by: axolotl | November 11, 2008 9:31 PM | Report abuse

Keep your eyes peeled for two types of federal employee:

1) the ideologues who are there to promote a specific party, agenda, or political philosophy rather than the American people, the Constitution, and the Declaration;

2) the dead weight--often in the form of federal lifers--that needs to be jettisoned in order for the federal government to become more lean, responsive, and effective. Codgy old-timers, many serving in middle management at this point in their careers, need to take their twentieth century mindsets and retire.

Reward creativity, demand sacrifice to the public, practice and preach humility, and take good care of your people. It's all a federal manager, agency head, or secretary needs to know.

Posted by: WilliamJ1 | November 11, 2008 9:54 PM | Report abuse

They will find, in the FDA, slugs that can be found anywhere: Early retirement for them. Also scientists, who are excellent but who have been gagged during the last eight years. The absence of this science, coupled with the FDA's marriage with Pharma - performed by the president - has cost the lives of hundreds of thousands of people from lethal prescription drugs. Finally, the idealogues, starting at the top, who have totally bought in as patsies to do what Bush wanted them to do with the FDA, and that is basically nothing. Despite efforts from Waxman, Grassley, and Markey and Stupak, efforts to change the culture at the FDA have failed. They should also talk to Dr. David Graham, who is the only public whistleblower at the FDA and who has kept his job due to the protection of Grassley. There are some outside the agency who should be talked to as well, including the families of those killed by prescription drugs. The innocent dead who received NO WARNING from the FDA. This agency should be basically dropped to the bottom of the Potomac and started afresh with a rule of NO PHARMA LOBBYISTS with ANY connection to the staff, and victims' families on ALL advisory committees. The FDA has extracted immense suffering.

Posted by: ebliversidge | November 12, 2008 8:47 AM | Report abuse

President Obama would be very wise to request and accept all resignations from political appointees at the GSA.

Next step, skip upper and middle managers and go directly to the worker bees and find out the real story. Most managers had a tendency to sugar coat, embellish results, smile or in just plain language, paint a false picture.

There are untold efficiencies to be gained, opportunities to make changes for the better, and need to clean up from the top down.

Posted by: melbeadavis1 | November 12, 2008 8:47 AM | Report abuse

I retired from the Federal Government in 2003 and my office received several VP Hammer Awards for reinvention. We thought outside the box, were able to reduce staff, and had demonstrated savings of over $60M by getting rid of wasteful efforts and doing things better and cheaper.

There are good Federal managers out there. Some need incentives "NOT TO SPEND AT YEAREND" and be reassured that if they have a demonstrated need for funds the following year over the current year budget, they will be able to get them.

Putting all the wartime expenditures in DoD aside, there are huge savings to be recouped in wasteful programs. This is a discretionary part of the budget (not entitlements) and can be cut. With proper management and policy guidance, we can start to get the financial management of the Federal Government back on track as was done under Clinton & Newt.

Posted by: Retired2 | November 12, 2008 9:35 AM | Report abuse

1. DOS____ Today's Excellent transportation & Communication must've eliminate much of their mission justification. Reorganize.
2. DOD___ Elimination of military bases in foreign countries. Verify their mission statement.
3. DOD Sec'y Gate___ interest in pilotless aircraft. Lives & cost saving. An excellent idea.
4. Re-Evaluate our policy of world Isolation. It might just make more sense in this century.

Posted by: tropedoabad | November 12, 2008 9:41 AM | Report abuse

After 33 years with three different federal agencies I've seen very few "slugs", a few lousy managers, and for the most part dedicated and hard working federal employees... so much for stereotypes. The transition team will find that there was no "failure of the regulatory process", rather there was "political interference with the regulatory process" over the last seven years that brought us to where we are today.

Posted by: attorneypaulsnyder | November 12, 2008 9:50 AM | Report abuse

I hope they use as an orienting device the following question:
How do current OMB rules and other Federal regulations restrict your ability to have open and honest dialogue with your constituents and the American public to better understand and serve their needs?
If they can get answers to this one, and the follow-up: What are your suggestions for what you need to be able to do to improve your relationships with these people? - they can focus on many of the real problems that cut across agencies.

Posted by: chiefmaven | November 12, 2008 9:50 AM | Report abuse

President Obama would be very wise to request and accept all resignations from political appointees at the State Department. Bush appointees there loath the incoming administration and would not serve, if somehow they managed to stay on, in the best interests of U.S. foreign policy or the Obama White House.

Posted by: GovEmp | November 12, 2008 9:51 AM | Report abuse

There were US Customs (for things) and US Immigration (for people). These were two separate entities in the past. Currently, it trys to claim to be one or four?????

There should be only One boss of US Customs and One boss of US Immigration reporting to the Secretary since both are now under DHS.

There are much more craziness that can be elicited, but this is not the forum to explain all the intricacies of the craziness within Immigration and Customs under DHS.

As it is, when you go to the airport you are under the Jurisdiction of US Customs and Border Protection (CBP). In CBP at the airports the foreign incoming passengers still have to go through Immigration review in one level or area and then must go through Customs area in another before leaving the airport. In Essence, this inspection procedure has not changed a bit. All this did was create another entity of its own with their own cadre of lawyers working for CBP. The former US Border Patrol who was under legacy USINS is now a big part of CBP with some autonomy as they will always have it (they had to put on a new patch of CBP and not US Border Patrol).

Immigration and Customs Enforcemnent (ICE) is combination of investigators of US Customs and US Immigration investigators and within it the Detention & Removal Operation (DRO-DRO is within ICE) with their own cadre of lawyers.

United States Citizenship & Immigration Services (USCIS) who is about the only entity that seems to give benefit and actual service (they have their own fraud officers).

TSA has been arresting illegal aliens in the guise of airport security.

What is Really needed is that these combination work should be separated. All Immigration matters (people) should be taken care of by an Immigration Agency and all Customs matters should be taken care of by a Customs Agency (things).
Yes, to certain definite degree, I am saying that Immigration and Customs should be a separate entity with each having One Top boss reporting to the Secretary.

Current set up has it that CBP has a boss (Legacy Border Patrol has their own boss), ICE has a boss-usually ICe is thought to be investigation within DHS (DRO in ICE has their boss), USCIS has their own boss all reporting to the Assistant Secretary.

There are Way Too Many Chiefs and/or Bosses.
Once againg Immigration for people and Customs for things and one boss each reporting to the Secretary or the Assistant Secretary of DHS.

Posted by: SOCIETY1 | November 12, 2008 10:51 AM | Report abuse

At the General Services Administration the transition team needs to look at the GITGO contract very carefully. IT jobs done by govt employees were take over by incompetent contractors who can't do the job. No one is happy except the people who own the company that got the contract. Ask a lot of questions. One more thing, get rid of all of the political appointees.

Posted by: CivilServ | November 12, 2008 10:55 AM | Report abuse

I retired from the federal government several years ago having spent over 23 years in 4 agencies as a fully warranted contracting officer and supervisor of contracting sections. I found most federal employees try to do their best and hope to be recognized and receive guidance on how to improve. One of the largest challenges I believe the team will face is "management" who will try to protect their position and sphere of influence. Accessing agency metrics regarding performance to meet agency mission will be challenging - the 4 agencies in which I worked spent millions to "integrate" systems with poor results. This will frustrate those on President-Elect Obama's team accustomed to systems that work. One last thought regarding systems - I suspect the team will find "management" pointing fingers at lower level staff already burdened with more than a full day's work to whom they assigned the data entry work. But don't ask "management" how to enter the data, I suspect they only assigned work.

Posted by: sally1231 | November 12, 2008 10:56 AM | Report abuse

1) Improve agency accessibility by fixing phone and computer systems so public can access real people (not recorded messages) in real time with no nonsense phone menus. After many uncompleted, dropped, weirdly answered phone calls to FHA's one phone number does not fit all, I went online. Email reply I received was in bureaucratic doublespeak.
2) Prioritize public health and safety concerns and make FDA and other agencies accountable. The millions of folks who take aspirin, for instance, need reassurance that its production (in China at the moment) is carefully monitored. Public health goof-ups are as big a concern as terrorist attacks.

Posted by: lenora1 | November 12, 2008 11:08 AM | Report abuse

The FDA decision to allow data from foreign clinical trials for approval of new drugs is a bad idea. It is cheaper for the pharma companies, but you get what you pay for. In clinical trials for new drugs, only strict oversight can guarantee that suitable patients are enrolled and that study trial conduct meets safety and efficacy standards to assure acceptable data. This is not possible in overseas trials. To protect patients, this FDA decision should be reversed immediately.

Posted by: sunflower3 | November 12, 2008 11:28 AM | Report abuse

The Obama Transition team has their work cut out for them. The Federal Aviation Administration -- the agency I retired from as an air traffic controller -- has implemented anti worker/anti labor policies that have driven those of us that would have stayed working into retirement. Quality employees are leaving a job requiring years of training and skill. It will be interesting to see what, if anything, is done to stem the tide of those leaving air traffic control jobs and leaving the skis over the United States less safe.

Posted by: NATCAGP | November 12, 2008 11:37 AM | Report abuse

I believe the review team should set up a section on to collect public comment on the specific programs under review. The team will need to look at fairly small segments to isolate serial complainers.

Posted by: David84 | November 12, 2008 11:52 AM | Report abuse

I am a retired federal employee who spent 33 years in the Federal System. With the election of Bush senior and again followed by the recent Bush I have seen unprecedented levels of political appointees being buried in agencies down to the regional office level. These individuals fly under the radar and are responsible for ensuring the ideals of the administration are carried out. They accomplish their goals by promoting those individuals who have no regard for data and instead base their recommendations on what is politically acceptable at the time. If you are a career employee you have two options, either sacrifice your career and not bend to the political whims, or ensure promotion by only saying and reporting what they want to hear.

The team needs to look at the mission statements of the various departments to ferret out the duplication between agencies.

A previous proposal by Carter which I believe has merit is to combine agencies into two areas land management and construction. This would eliminate a lot of duplication of services as well as eliminate some federal regulations which differ depending upon which agency controls the land and it's uses.

Posted by: teamorlb | November 12, 2008 11:56 AM | Report abuse

Being one of the "Ten Well Dressed Women", what does that have to do with transition...I know federal employees do have to comply with guidelines, policies, etc, set forth by thier HR Department; although the statment above sounds like it's about fashion...
Some Departments within the Agency are understaffed. They leave it up to one person to do the work of three diffent people, falls into the famous "other duties as assigned", and you wonder why some projects are neglected... Put more money in the Department's Budgets and let them hire the people they need; also to pay a decent salary to keep the employees they have. "Create Jobs"
There is a problem with not having entry level positions offered, how can they expect the younger generation to get their foot in the door. "Has the education, but not enough experience", sad to hear this remark one too many times.
Offer a buy out for those that need to retire, give them something to work with.
Change can only happen starting with hearing what the common worker bee has to say, not from the top down.

Posted by: commonsense30 | November 12, 2008 11:56 AM | Report abuse

Let's start with VA ok?? Its the ONLY Federal Agency that I am familiar with having retired in 1999 after 9 years of service with them and a history of 4 years in the military in the 1960's.
Bring your Scythe and a broom because based on personal experiences and what I have seen personally you will need them. This Agency is an abomination and a thorough CLEANING and CLEARING out is what is needed, no stopping start at the bottom and work your way up to the top. I am also a Disable Vet so I have seen it from both perspectives. The medical side of the House has been great to me and my family, the Administration side of the house needs some very CLOSE SCRUTINY. The Hospital Director's I came in contact with NEVER,. get this NEVER served in Uniform??? Can you believe that???? They act like cattle at the public feeding trough with their high incomes and BONUSES, which in reality, their emplloyees EARN for them. They are NOT accountable, they don't return phone calls, answer letters and when confronted they have their schills intervene for them and I know what I'm talking about because I have been treated at 7 different VA Hospitals and the MO is the same in each one of them. I have protected this "empty" suits with stuffed shirts in my capacity as a Police Officer when I worked there so I know what I am talking about. Some of these execs "hide" in Government because in the real world of competition and performance the ones I have seen would NEVER make the cut, so hide in Government and just enjoy the ride. If anyone wants to discuss this further and STOP undeserved BONUSES to these clows please contact me at anytime and maybe as a group we can get this injustice stopped. 3.8M in BONUSES to VA Execs in FY07 is ENOUGH for me. That money could have been used to hire more employees and HELP more veterans not feather the nests of "empty
suits" with stuffed shirts.

Posted by: Ronbocop55msncom | November 12, 2008 12:02 PM | Report abuse

I would like to have a thorough audit done of every agency. I especially would like to have product warranty reviews on how much money is being wasted by not following return policies. I have seen several federal agencies dispose of products without returning them for a refund or replacements. In this day and age we need accountability of where our funds are being wasted and take that into consideration when it's time to cut money from budgets.

I have seen agencies with staff that do not have the skills to run their departments and have to contract everything out which wastes time and money.

Federally Funded Assistive Technology programs need a extensive re-evaluation and replace the agencies that are wasteful. It doesn't do enough just to tell the agencies to do better. We need examples set of starting over with new people and fresh inovative ideas.

Posted by: TERRY1FORREST | November 12, 2008 12:16 PM | Report abuse

The Obama Transition team should 1) interview workers below the management level, especially those who were hired more than 8 years ago. 2) All political appointees should be let go or offered a severance type package to leave. (As in the past many of the lower level political appointees are now pushing through last minute paper work to stay on.)
3) "Service" oriented agencies such as HHS, Labor, HUD, etc. should review post-Bush job, health and housing initiatives that worked before(without outside contractors), and use as guides to devise better employment and family oriented programs.
4) Purge 85 to 95% of the outside contractors who have bloated the federal budget with unnecessary outsourcing.
5)Hire or re-hire more regular, qualified, civil servants to implement new initiatives.
6)Unplug the now clogged, review processes in all agencies. In the last 8 years, many rather minor decisions on congressional responses, advisory committee appointments, and grant and contract awards, that should have been handled at the agency level were funneled through the White House. Thus hamstringing agencies' responsiveness to congress and the American people.
7) Review, investigate and refer for investigation and possible prosecution all suspicious firings, hirings, or actions taken that could have violated any federal laws, including those pertaining to whistleblower laws and the Hatch Act. (Many federal employees have been uncharacteristically fearful of speaking up because this administrations employee interactions have been so hostile.)

I could go on and will, but will stop here in this forum.

Posted by: Jamari15 | November 12, 2008 12:30 PM | Report abuse

Had to revise my remarks--No. 3 should read:

3) "Service" oriented agencies such as HHS, Labor, HUD, etc. should review PRE-Bush job, health and housing initiatives that worked before(without outside contractors), and use as guides to devise better employment and family oriented programs.

Posted by: Jamari15 | November 12, 2008 12:43 PM | Report abuse

So what do you think the Obama team's reviews will unearth? Unclear processes and disconnected directions, in too many of our Governmental Departments....
Do you have any suggestions for what they should look for?

This part should be easy....GPRA 1993 -Ok,
Look at each Departments Mission and Vision Statement: is it still appropriate? Have they and are they still following their mission and vision statements/mandates?
Are their processes not only aligned with what they are mandated to perform but are their processes transparent and clear to all of the people charged with carrying out their mission?
Can not only the Senior Leaders but the front line staff explain their Department's mission and how they carry out day to day work in accomplishing that mission? What are their continuous improvement processes?
In other words Using GPRA -"Government Performance and Results Act of 1993", will keep all of their processes transparent and will give the agility to make needed changes when necessary openly and aligning all processes at the same time.

Posted by: tap55411 | November 12, 2008 1:16 PM | Report abuse

Hopefully Obama's team will do a thorough scrub at HHS OIG especially of Audit. This group used to be able to audit, report and make a significant contribution in monies recovered. Now their reports read like the auditee wrote them. Whatever happened to independence let alone ethics sufficient to do what you are paid to do.

Also Obama's team needs to look at this and any other audit/review group and see what their travel has been. One can not audit or review from a desk and if this is what goes on they are not needed. Nor are eight to 10 regional offices needed if Washington and Baltimore make all the decisions.

Posted by: oigfree | November 12, 2008 1:19 PM | Report abuse

Post Bush there needs to be a top down paradign shift clearly imparted on all remaining non-political appointed managers(the political A's should be gone). The message:You serve the people and are expected to act in a manner that promotes the best interest of the United States citizen. If that goal comes in conflict with any policy you must follow, report the problem immediatly to........
Someone will have a full time job re-programing the government to once again put the people's best interest first. Most Federal employees do not like pandering to special interests when clearly in conflict to the public best interest. The FDA in paticular needs an enema of warped decision making and priorities.

Posted by: geminga | November 12, 2008 1:33 PM | Report abuse

Some suggestions for the proposed agency reviews:

1. Review budget of each Department.
2. Ascertain number of employees in each Department.
3. Obtain description of employees' job together with brief
statement about their accomplishments.
4. Eliminate duplication of tasks and dead wood.
5. Restructure and trim budget accordingly.

I previously worked as a Business Manager on various major government projects. It was routine to require a basis of estimate (cost) for each and every task together with the description of said tasks. If done correctly, it is an efficient way to establish the manpower required for each job and to monitor the expenditures.

Posted by: mpowell181 | November 12, 2008 1:53 PM | Report abuse

Here's an idea: ask for volunteers among scientists, other experts, and lawyers to document abusive practices by the Bush administration. Those who show initiative will probably be motivated to work hard and enthusiastically in a more honest environment.

Posted by: tmorgan2008 | November 12, 2008 1:56 PM | Report abuse

Boy, those are some qualifications, best dressed and worked for gore. What else would you want? That says it all. Here comes the clinton administration under a different name.

Posted by: LTCSTAN | November 12, 2008 1:58 PM | Report abuse

Well I will put on an optimistic face and wish this transition team well, but I do have reservations. Until we know the make-up of the specific teams visiting the various agencies, these reviews will merely be a dog and pony show, superficial at best. I would hope that the team has the intelligence to really review and understand the concepts of Vision Statements, Strategic Plans, and Operational Plans. Each is distinctly different and have their own specific uses. Over the years of my working in the Federal service and trying to develop strategic plans, many managers did not understand the difference between these three types of statements and plans. Far too many agencies confused Operational plans with Strategic Plans and vice-versa, and confused Vision Statements with Strategic Plans. Hopefully, the transition team members will see these distinctions.

Two agencies that need a very close looking at are USDA Food Inspection Service and FDA at all levels. Both of these agencies have really suffered for the past years since the Reagan years. In actuality, FDA is the only agency directly charged with protection of the American public, it is mandated in its organic act. But over the past decade, it has made Pharma and Food Industry its constituency. USDA is mandated to be the agency of the meat and agriculture industry by its organic act. At least one can say that they have been true to their constituency.

Posted by: RedRat | November 12, 2008 2:38 PM | Report abuse

OK I have read about the old slugs the young that can't get their foot in the door. Here's reality, those old slugs....have experience and can teach the entry level. There is also the point that many old slugs are out looking for work they have experience and working knowledge they also have had their retirement taken away in the stock market (a government encouraged pension) and are being told that Social Security is broke (even though they have paid into it all their lives). Maybe what needs to be done here is a division of entry level jobs for both old and young so everyone can work.
If you think being young and inexperienced is a hindrance remember someday God willing you will be a old slug too. Since the retirement age is 70 a person in their 50's still has a long way to go. would you wish your parents get fired or not hired because of age?

Posted by: lcky9 | November 12, 2008 3:08 PM | Report abuse

Generically, there's one over-riding and compelling issue that several contributors to this thread have already noted: "Don't throw out the baby(s) with the (dirty) bathwater"! Federal Gov't. Service has been SO ideologically/dogmatically politicized in the past 8 years, that the old elected “Pol” mantra of "GO ALONG TO GET ALONG" has become the prevailing rule. Mid-to-low level employees are the victims, not the problems!

I lived & worked in DC (then parenthetically known as "Disneyland East") for over a decade; & in varied professional capacities - first as a major national association director, who often testified before/served in an advisory capacity to Congressional Committees; then later a Community Economic Development consultant & adviser, to governments at ALL levels - had extensive opportunity to be close to employees at all levels, in many agencies; especially in Training sessions.
On the whole, over nearly a decade of close encounters, I found our mid-level “Fed’s” to be extremely hard working, dedicated & capable. Upper level management seldom participated, beyond a momentary courtesy "drop ins"; ostensibly due to the press of their responsibilities. (But, in actuality, more because full participation in peer workshops tends to illustrate serious shortcomings in knowledge, ability to be corrected, etc!)

However, there was - and remains - a Dep't, & one of its key Agencies, that are extreme exception to this rule: I.e., “Interior”, in general; and the “Bureau of Indian Affairs”, in particular.
Their shenanigans & shortcomings are too outrageously numerous to detail here; but the fact that they've used their bureaucratic, legal & periodic political influence to string out a very serious, well documented "Violation of Trust" lawsuit by the Tribes against them, should suffice to at least draw attention this contention.
That $multi-billion claim for redress of their “lost” (i.e., DoI can’t account for their mysterious disappearance, due ostensibly to earlier lousy accounting methods) Trust Funds, has now stretched over 3 Administrations!
As I once testified to a Congressional hearing on BIA performance (a member asking my opinion, knowing I’d worked for that Agency all of a year, before becoming too upset to continue): "Senator, having the current paternalistic, patronizing and morally corrupt make-up of the BIA in control of Native American Trusts, is akin to having the Ku Klux Klan in charge of the Equal Employment Opportunities Commission."
Needless to say, it was VERY difficult for my consulting group to compete for BIA contracts in the ensuing years.
But, equally sad to say, I've seen NO improvement in the years since; and quite possibly - especially at the sponsoring/controlling DoI level - an even worsening of attitudes & performance in recent years.
Obviously a great place to start with a “clean sweep”!

Posted by: seamusb32 | November 12, 2008 3:08 PM | Report abuse

The review team for USDA-Forest Service should focus on the "politicization" of the Forest Service since GWB took office.......which has been achieved through appointing Mr. Mark Rey (a timber industry lobbyist) to the job of Undersecretary of Nat. Resources for USDA. Mr. Rey and his cronies should be immediately removed by Obama, and NEVER AGAIN should the administration allow the Forest Service be so tightly controlled by a political appointee. In these last 8 years, virtually every major decision made by the FS has had to go through Mr. Rey's office first for review.......and of course, only those decisions that were in-line with GWB's priorities were approved (basically more resource extraction, road building, ski resorts, timber harvest, etc), with little or no regard for their impacts to the resource. PLEASE allow the Chief of the Forest Service to do his/her job under an Obama administration, with no political interference! The FS is (was) a great agency, but it has been severely damaged by GWB and people like Mark Rey these last 8 years. Let the FS get back to making decisions based on SOUND SCIENCE, and not someone's political agenda. That will go a long way to restoring the credibility of the agency, and also the morale of its employees. Thanks!

Posted by: RAE2 | November 12, 2008 6:56 PM | Report abuse

At the Dept of Education's Office for Civil Rights (OCR), please restore the Clinton era pro-active approach to resolving systemic problems. I worked there for 26 years and it was the only time that OCR even came close to living up to its potential to serve the public interest. Bush appointees gutted the program in a very mean spirited fashion, leading to my choosing retirement rather than watch ideology replace service.

Posted by: slavichero | November 12, 2008 8:07 PM | Report abuse

They will uncover waste, relatives hiring relatives, racism, unqualified people occupying high level positions, all with-in the building in which the team is based.

Posted by: ant1040 | November 12, 2008 9:05 PM | Report abuse


President Obama would be very wise to request and accept all resignations from political appointees at OPM and the Federal Investigative Service Division. An immediatley conduct an investigation into prohibited personnel practices, abuse of authority, descrimination and waste,fraud and abuse and the lack of accountability by the agency.

The next step would be to allow transion members to come into the offices and speak directly to the worker bees and find out the real story. Remove the existing managment and restructure this chaotic mess. If your from the Chaney region your sure to have a job security as well as your relatives. If your are Latino, African American or Asian your opportunity for a management position or any other promotion is null unless you happened to be the token (1) or live in Boyers PA. President OBAMA should consider moving this Division under another agency Homeland Security, State Dept or DOD.

Posted by: devinedesign001 | November 12, 2008 9:24 PM | Report abuse

To read some of the former commentary, this agency review has the markings of a political purge worthy of Stalin. Surely, though, any executions will be mock executions?

Posted by: The-Baron-of-Arizona | November 12, 2008 9:43 PM | Report abuse

They will talk to top management, and they will learn nothing.

Posted by: themaryrose | November 13, 2008 1:14 PM | Report abuse

This Transition Team must reach into the ranks of career federal employees in the various agencies, those worker bees at GS 12 or lower and find out what is really going on and has been going on. I believe there is a whole lot of corruption at mid-management and upper management level in many government agencies, and no small amount of collusion with certain industries, such as large defense contractors.

It is necessary for the investigators to get to the bottom of what is really going on and who the real bad actors are.

Here is a website with a lot of information about some of those bad actors.

Posted by: ConcernedTaxpayer2 | November 15, 2008 11:17 PM | Report abuse

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