A New Voice for a Familiar Institution



A couple of comments by one-time Post people struck me as I thought about taking on this role:

"People make news. The more people, the more news." -- George D. Riley, in the first Federal Diary on Nov. 29, 1932.

"The first mission of a newspaper is to tell the truth as nearly as the truth can be ascertained." -- Eugene Meyer, after purchasing The Post in 1933.

Those words will guide me during this exercise, which will include an enhanced Web presence, in service and accountability journalism.

The Diary provides an important service to federal employees and contractors by covering issues critical to them. I am keenly aware of the need to provide readers with news, information and insight that affects not only their roles as employees, but also their lives as parents, spouses and retirees.

Sometimes, that will take the form of exposing situations that might otherwise escape public notice. This newspaper has seen many changes since Meyer purchased it, yet nothing has been more long lasting than his seven Post principles, with truth-telling being No. 1 . A critical component of truth-telling is accountability journalism. The column will be a vehicle to hold accountable decision makers who directly affect the lives of federal workers. Accountability applies not just to the bosses, but also to workers who should be held accountable for providing the best service possible to the nation's taxpayers.

In preparing to take over the column, I've contacted various movers and shakers in town. Among other things, I asked them about important federal workplace issues. Here's some of what they told me.

Sen. Daniel K. Akaka (D-Hawaii), chairman of the Senate subcommittee on oversight of government management, the federal workforce and the District of Columbia: "The broken [federal] hiring processes and lack of investment in the current workforce has left agencies vulnerable. As agencies prepare for the transition, they must look at streamlining the hiring process, attracting talent from diverse backgrounds, and ensuring that federal pay, leave, retirement, and other benefits are competitive to make the federal government an employer of choice."

Carol A. Bonosaro, president of the Senior Executives Association: "We must ensure that the Senior Executive Service is attractive to highly qualified managers at the top of the General Schedule system. That requires bringing the risks and rewards of the SES back into balance by requiring annual pay adjustments that reflect both inflation and locality, including performance awards in the computation of retirement annuities, and finding a permanent solution to the increasing overlap of GS and Senior Executive Service pay.

Rep. Danny K. Davis (D-Ill.), chairman of the House subcommittee on the Federal Workforce, Postal Service and District of Columbia: "The subcommittee will continue to investigate diversity in the senior ranks of the legislative branch agencies with a hearing in September. I plan to begin the next Congress with hearings on discrimination in the federal workplace."

John Gage , national president of the American Federation of Government Employees: "Federal agencies have contracted out inherently governmental functions, from writing regulations to developing budgets to supervising contractors. We believe that this inherently governmental work needs to be brought back in-house so it can be performed by reliable and experienced federal employees."

Clay Johnson, deputy director of management of the Office of Management and Budget: "In the months ahead, federal employees will be challenged to ensure the new administration views them as professional public servants, not bureaucrats, capable of most effectively serving the American people."

Colleen M. Kelley, president of the National Treasury Employees Union: "The lack of partnership between federal agencies and employee representatives has taken a toll and we need to return to a more cooperative relationship, as well as ensure that federal employees who have been denied collective-bargaining rights be provided those rights by statute."

Max Stier, president and chief executive of the Partnership for Public Service, a nonprofit:

"There is no time to waste getting the federal civil service prepared to help the next president's incoming team get up to speed while at the same time making sure existing efforts don't grind to halt."

In addition to those in power positions, I look forward to hearing from the rank and file. Send your comments -- please keep them brief -- to federaldiary@washpost.com.



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