Barry R. Flamm lost his government job last week. He wasn't RIFed or fired; he was abolished, along with 11 other people in the Department of Agriculture's Office of Environmental Quality.
Flamm, director of the office since its inception two years ago, got the wrod last Thursday, when USDA issued a press release on a departmental reorganization. The office, it seems, had been reorganized off the chart.
"They never even talked to me about it," marveled Flamm.
As a departmental agency, the $700,000-a-year operation is pretty small potatoes. But it's clear to Flamm that the office was axed on grounds of philosophy, not finance.
Flamm, a 26-year government veteran and member of the Senior Executive Service, was sent from the Carter administrationhs Council on Environmental Quality to set up the office "as a focal point for environmental issues," he said. Apparently it has done its job too well for the new administration. The office has provided "a whole lot more environmental sensitivity," Flamm said, "and that's not what they want."
Deputy agriculture secretary Richard Lyng says there really isn't a role for an office like Flamm's in the Agriculture Department -- USDA is too big and the programs are too diverse.
"We were conscious of the fact we'd be accused of being less sensitive to the environment," he said, but in a department of 85,000, "this little office of 12 doesn't count for much."
A USDA spokesman, poring through a 20-page fact sheet on the reorganization to find the four lines that dealt with the office, said its functions "will be distributed to appropriate line agencies."
The head of Flamm's division has asked his advice on how to do that, and Flamm says he'll give it, if only to assure jobs for his staff.
As for Flamm, he's getting out. "This," he says, "is too much."