Not deadwood

Yes, many people believe that the federal government is bloated. I believe that myself. All bureaucracies (e.g., universities, corporations, the University of Texas football program) are loaded with deadwood that should be trimmed. As a taxpayer, I am all for that.

However, consider this analogy. Your tree needs trimming because 50 percent of its branches are dead. Would you 1) trim 50 percent from the end of every branch, or 2) trim the branches that are actually dead? Unless you have been doing sit-ups under parked cars, you would probably go with No. 2. Well, not so our federal leaders! There are many dedicated federal civil servants who are not deadwood. In fact, they are a bargain.

I can speak only for DOD scientists, engineers and medical personnel, but I assure you that all of us are way underpaid in comparison to our earning potential in the private sector. To add insult to injury, our pay has been frozen for three years, and now our pay has been cut an additional 20 percent by the furlough. Over three years, our income has been reduced by 30 percent.

So, why do we do it? Because we believe it is the right thing to do. Because, through our training and expertise, we can support the young people who stop bullets for our county. Fulfilling? Absolutely! Profitable? Not so much. Smart? Apparently not by today’s standards of social responsibility.

After earning my doctorate in neuroscience from Yale University, I chose civil service with the Department of Defense. I have been a civil servant for 23 years. In 2010, I was selected as the best scientist in the entire Air Force because my research lowered causality rates from IEDs by 14 percent. I wasn’t looking for grandiose adulation, nor, for that matter, to be thrown under the bus because our federal officials lack the moral fortitude to address the fiscal problems they created.

So, how’s moral? As bad as I’ve ever seen it.

— Alan Ashworth, Ph.D.,

Chief scientist

DOD Bioeffects Center of Excellence

Senior adjunct professor

University of Texas

Lament for the future

I feel anger, frustration and resentment that my employer does not have the integrity and fiscal discipline required to honor its most basic commitment — to pay its employees. I find it insulting and patronizing when my employer reminds me of my duty to the taxpayers and war fighters at a time when they themselves are failing to meet their basic obligation to their employees. I lament that my government will be unable to attract the young, bright, dedicated people we will need to run the country in the future. I fear I gave bad career advice to my master’s-degree-equipped 25-year-old daughter, who joined the federal government a year ago.

I left private industry three years ago to serve my country with the Navy Department. After a lateral move, I now make less than if I had remained with my former employer. I’m 63, and a 20 percent pay cut means I will need to tap into my retirement savings sooner than I had planned. But I’m fortunate that I have savings.

Our dysfunctional Congress has gold-plated benefits and retirement. Although they directly caused the current crisis, they are feeling no personal pain from their lack of focus and action. If an employer in private industry is unable to meet its payroll, it is probably on the doorstep of bankruptcy. The shareholders would revolt, and all the senior leaders who demonstrated such lack of fiscal responsibility would lose their jobs. Are the voters paying attention?

— Glenn Kerr,

Vietnam-era Marine veteran

Current civilian employee

Department of the Navy


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