Out of the Humidor
From the Print Edition:
Raquel Welch, Jul/Aug 01
(continued from page 1)
At the age of 45 and with 25 years, 9 months and 6 days of service, I opted for an early retirement and buyout from the federal government. Other than my first year as a mail clerk at the Veterans Administration (ask any vet for his thoughts about the VA), the remainder of my career was in information technology for various agencies within the Department of Defense. I worked at my last command 16 years. Joseph Nye Jr.'s article "The Quiet Crisis in Public Service" [June 2001] validated some of my experiences during the last five years of my career.
While completing an individual training plan for the next fiscal year during the summer of 1999, I was informed there might not be any funding. My final year's training did not include anything related to the IT field. On the other hand, I did receive politically correct training mandatory for all personnel, including prevention of sexual harassment, HIV and diversity training.
Since retiring, I began a second career at the state level and was shocked at how much more technologically advanced my agency is over the military activity I left in December 1999. And I was not alone. Several key members of my old base's IT staff have left for the private sector, although they did not have the 25 years minimum service required for an early retirement.
Mismanagement in the public sector is rampant. Once admitted to the "Good Ol' Boys' Club," incompetent managers are protected and rotated through various departments and organizations regardless of lack of experience in that area or previous poor performance. Yet, advancement for others is slow. I went from a GS-2 mail clerk to a GS-11 computer specialist in 21 years, even with many semester hours of college on my own time and at my own expense. In my experience, veterans' preference was rarely a significant factor in promotions. In some cases, I believe being a vet hurt those applying for promotion.
Morale began a drastic downturn in the mid-1990s. Before then, most of my co-workers and I actually enjoyed our work and felt productive. I have maintained contact with friends who are still feds. Morale continues to decline.
Pay was dramatically increased for those in the computer specialist series in the federal government, ostensibly to be competitive with the private sector. This is at the same time that that series is being cost-analyzed for outsourcing in many agencies. Coincidence? Staffing reductions due to attrition result in more work for those who remain, because of years-long hiring or promotion freezes. Many workers are simply marking time, hoping they reach minimum eligibility for retirement before their positions are outsourced or their agency is closed or consolidated. Others are submitting résumés. Perhaps the system is too broken to repair.
During my son's undergraduate years, he worked as a summer hire at another Department of Defense agency on base. After completing grad school, a federal career is not on his agenda.
Tony Gonzalez Sr.