Communication. Expectations. Trust. They've all taken a beating at the Pentagon this month.
The breakdown began at a July 7 meeting when parents were informed that this fall, the Pentagon would close its day-care center, which is used by employees. The looming deadline threw the parents into crisis mode -- after all, you don't have peace of mind at work if you're worried about who's taking care of the kid.
Over the past several days, Pentagon officials, stung by employee backlash, have started reaching out to the working parents. As Washington Post staff writer Leef Smith reported, officials plan to provide temporary day-care housing at Fort Myer for the displaced children. It will operate until the opening of a permanent facility at the fort in fall 2007.
But reassuring some of the parents that the Pentagon truly wants to be a model employer might take more time than constructing the new day-care center. Jill Wood, a Defense Department employee who relies on the Pentagon's center, offered this perspective in an e-mail:
"I see this as a work/life issue. It's also a family friendly work policy issue and how the federal government fails to walk the talk.
"You want to know where the future of the federal government is? It's me. I'm a GS-14, mid-level manager, 17 years out of college, and have been working for DoD for 14 years. . . .
"What does this say to me? It says that I don't matter. That no matter how hard I work or how conscientious I am in fulfilling my work responsibilities while juggling my family's needs, in the end, 'they' don't care about me. . . .
"I may not know everything about the Pentagon, but one thing I do know is people. Treat them shabbily, and they will never forget. It saddens me to be treated this way and to see the fallout with the children and the center's teachers. They deserve better than this last-minute scrambling by Washington Headquarters Services."
Although creating a temporary center at Fort Myer is "not a perfect solution," Wood said, "it's a step in the right direction."
Told of Wood's comments, Howard G. Becker, director of Washington Headquarters Services, said, "We do care about her, and we do care about the children." He also said: "Clearly, we didn't fully understand the parents' expectations. . . . Knowing what their feelings are, we are trying to get representatives of the parents involved in every facet of the way ahead."
The Pentagon decided to close its day-care center because of concerns about terrorism and whether the children could be protected. "We still think the decision was proper, but we do think it could have been handled differently," Becker said.
The Pentagon is acting to help parents find alternative child care, and one of the Defense Department's top political appointees, Raymond F. DuBois, director of administration and management, has met with leaders of a parents' group, Becker said.
"We are making an effort to rebuild trust," Becker said. But, he acknowledged, of the 94 families who have children in the Pentagon center, "not all of them will reach a point where they trust us."
Executive Pay Rules
New rules for setting and adjusting the pay of federal executives and other senior-level professionals will be discussed Wednesday at a forum sponsored by the Office of Personnel Management.
The pay rules have been in the works for months, and some civil service experts believe they could serve as a model for how to create federal personnel systems that more rigorously link salaries to employee performance.
Kay Coles James, the OPM director, announced the forum late Friday in a memo to the government's chief personnel officers. "We anticipate the regulations will be issued in the Federal Register in the very near future," James wrote.
Joseph Franklyn Stivers is retiring from the Department of Homeland Security on Thursday after 30 years of federal service. Stivers is the chief of the acquisition branch for the Business Office, Information Analysis and Infrastructure Protection Directorate.
Raymond B. Thoman, deputy assistant administrator for labor relations at the Federal Aviation Administration, is retiring Aug. 3 after 31 years and 11 months of service. He has been at the forefront of federal labor relations issues, particularly during the past eight years while the FAA adopted personnel flexibilities.