It is true that things are tough all over but, no, the Pentagon is not installing pay toilets for its 23,000 civilian and military aides.
In these tight budget times it is not surprising that some Defense workers believed -- and were outraged -- on Friday when a very official-looking memo was circulated high and low. It announced an allegedly new free enterprise approach for entry into the 280 (unclassified) restrooms in the world's largest five-sided building.
The memo, which even found its way into the inner sanctum of the joint chiefs of staff, was on government-issue paper, from the Washington Headquarters Building Services office. Among other things, it oversees the restrooms at the nation's military nerve center.
The memo said that the General Services Administration had awarded a "major contract" to a Baltimore-based firm "for installation of pay toilets in public restrooms of the Pentagon building." Purpose of the exercise, the bogus memo said, is to "recoup revenues lost from the parking lots."
Earlier this year a federal judge here told the government to stop charging federal workers for parking at the office, and the government has been fretting at the multimillion-dollar-revenue loss. The pay-parking case is under appeal to a higher court.
When asked to comment on the memo, official Pentagon reaction ranged from "Oh My God!!!" to "I'm sure it isn't true but . . . let me check." We can happily report that the memo is a belated bit of April foolery, although some officials would like to talk to the man, or woman, who wrote it anonymously.
One of the Pentagon's newsstands reported a brief rush for change -- in the form of dimes -- early Friday. But you can save them for pay telephones. tThe memo is a fake, officials say, and restrooms will remain toll-free.
"You know I really wish you wouldn't even mention the idea," one old-timer said. "You never know but what David Stockman [the penny-pinching director of the White House Office of Management and Budget] might not pick up on it!"