The Solomon Scandals’ bureaucratic setting—a few decades later

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imageMuch of The Solomon Scandals is about conflicts between friendship and duty. A rickety high-rise may tumble as a result, with hundreds of IRS and CIA workers inside. Washington has a culture of traded favors, one reason why Congress and the Interior Department unwittingly let the oil spill happen in the Gulf.

imageAnd how about the General Services Administration in the era my novel depicts? GSA was still recovering from the Nixonians’ politicization of it. A $600,000 cafeteria went AWOL at the Environmental Protection Agency, for example, even though the lease required one. The landlord had been a pal of Vice President Spiro Agnew.

Portrait of Martha JohnsonUnder Barack Obama or for that matter under Zeus or Jehovah, the GSA would still have its flaws. One ticklish mission is to pick the most deserving recipients of government contracts; so the corruption potential is high. But guess what? Among the 28 large agencies ranked by The Best Places to Work in the Federal Government, GSA’s leadership recently came in fourth in the category of effectiveness of leadership, including the integrity factor—a stark contrast to the Bush years, when Administrator Lurita Doan resigned amid accusations of cronyism. Overall the “Best” this time was eight, and from afar, I suspect the rank will get better under Administrator Martha N. Johnson, who, fittingly, served as VP for organizational culture at Computer Sciences Corporation.

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