The Washington Post

Some things the government got right in 2011

President Obama met in August with Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano, left, and FEMA Administrator Craig Fugate, right, to review the federal government’s preparations for Hurricane Irene. (Associated Press)

Let’s take a brief look:

1.) Federal disaster response: This year set a record for the most billion-dollar weather disasters in a 12-month period, an unfortunate milestone that included deadly blizzards, tornadoes, heat waves, drought, wildfires, floods and hurricanes. In a year with such destruction, the Federal Emergency Management Agency reestablished itself as a reliable, professional agency capable of responding swiftly and responsibly.

FEMA Administrator Craig Fugate. (Mark Wilson)

Vice President Biden is leading the White House “Campaign to Cut Waste.” (Win McNamee/GETTY IMAGES)

Amid the ongoing debate over federal spending and watchdog reports exposing dozens of cases of government overlap, the White House deserves credit for launching its “Campaign to Cut Waste,” a project that in six months has identified hundreds of millions of dollars in potential savings. But its ultimate key to success will be whether agencies actually end up saving money — and whether the Obama administration, Congress — and yes — the press, holds agencies to account.

3.) Clearing out the backlogs: Good-government groups say federal agencies are doing a better job of responding to Freedom of Information Act requests despite a backlog that in some places still dates to the late 1980s. Federal job applicants also report that they’re receiving responses from prospective employers faster than before. And technology is helping agencies, including the Department of Veterans Affairs and the Social Security Administration, cut significant lag times. It’s nowhere near perfect, but backlogs are shrinking across the government.

OPM Director John Berry (Mark Gail/THE WASHINGTON POST)

Agree or disagree with these choices? Have others to add? Please join the conversation in the comments section below.

Follow Ed O’Keefe on Twitter: @edatpost

For more, check out ”the biggest government ‘oops’ of 20ll” and The Post’s Best of 2011 for a deeper look at the biggest topics and trends of the year.

Ed O’Keefe is covering the 2016 presidential campaign, with a focus on Jeb Bush and other Republican candidates. He's covered presidential and congressional politics since 2008. Off the trail, he's covered Capitol Hill, federal agencies and the federal workforce, and spent a brief time covering the war in Iraq.


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