The Federal Diary gets lots of mail, some of it fit to print. We like to give readers a chance to speak out by occasionally printing some of their letters.

I read the column in the March 10 paper and was surprised that no one has addressed one key area of federal employee salaries. I speak mainly of the Federal Air Marshal Service, which is not on the GS pay scale. The only way these workers can get a salary increase is to be promoted to a higher pay band or be given an in-band increase off of their yearly evaluation.

There are very few bonuses given and if they are, they are very small. The way it seems to work is that the marshals who fly do not get in-band increases, regardless of their evaluation, because they get per diem. Almost all of the increases are given to ground- based assigned personnel. Consequently, many marshals have not had a salary increase in years.

Now it seems it will be two more years due to the government-wide salary freeze. It is really frustrating that most federal workers under the General Schedule scale are at least getting step increase while those under the pay band system have received nothing for years.

The men and women of the Federal Air Marshal Service travel millions of air miles a year, work up to 10 hours a day and spend several nights a week away from home and family. The amount of overseas travel has tripled in the last two years and these trips are routinely multiple days in duration.

If something does not give soon, the service will start losing good people to other agencies and retirements.

As our members of Congress lament the money that is spent on government worker salaries, they should remember that there are workers out there who have received nothing for many years. It’s insulting to everyone who is stuck in this horrible pay system. It’s insulting to the law enforcement officers who keep our skies safe.

— Kim Merritt, Gaithersburg

Power of social media

I found your article about Foreign Service training entertaining. The part about “clearly the military has the right answer” was particularly so.

We are in the midst of watching as several countries in the Middle East go through a change in leadership. Many of these countries have been hostile to the United States for some time.

I hope you have noted that it is not our bombs, planes, aircraft carriers or even those well-trained military personnel that are effecting this change. In the case of Libya, we have tried some of these as a means of changing their government to no avail. In fact, our military action may have made the Libyans more resolute in supporting their own leadership.

What is bringing about this change? The immutable force of American innovation: Facebook and Twitter. These two inventions have done more to effect change in the Middle East and to further our way of life and of thought than anything the military has ever lobbed at them.

How quickly could we balance the budget and improve the quality of life for our citizens if we used social media to achieve our international goals instead of aircraft carriers?

What term would you use for conveying our way of life to the rest of the world in such a way that they embrace it? I would submit that the word is diplomacy. It’s probably just as well that the State Department didn’t spend the same level as the military on language arts. Changes in the Middle East haven’t really required high competence in Arabic languages.

Thus far, the languages that have been most effective in shaping international politics in that region have been the languages of Facebook and Twitter.

— Patrick Stingley, Washington

Bemused and agitated

I am a federal retiree who worked during the Reagan years. I have watched the recent wave of adulation and icon-making with a combination of bemusement and agitation. The Ronald Reagan I worked under was a far cry from the kindly visionary that revisionist history has created.

Reagan’s demonization of the government and federal workforce is well documented, but what is little known is the hypocrisy and cynicism of his administration and the appointees he brought in. In my agency, and I suspect throughout the government, there was an attitude of “We won and this is our palace to plunder.” The disdain for the government and its workers was palpable among his appointees, and the desire to personally gain pursued unashamedly. Not only did the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration undergo the only actual reduction in force of my 32 years, but they simultaneously brought in more appointees than any other administration from Nixon to George W. Bush, making their hypocrisy visible for all to see. Career people found themselves surrounded with 20- and 30-somethings who knew nothing and cared even less. Many program activities were summarily halted and people reassigned. It was a grim and angry time, and the only time I considered ending my federal career.

— Roger Kurrus, Chantilly