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Federal Diary: The readers speak


The Federal Diary gets a lot of reader reaction, via e-mail, snail mail and online posts generally signed with nicknames. Some of it is fit to print. Occasionally, we give readers a chance to speak out by publishing their remarks, edited for clarity and length.

Joe Davidson writes the Federal Diary, a column about federal government and workplace issues that celebrated its 80th birthday in November 2012. Davidson previously was an assistant city editor at The Washington Post and a Washington and foreign correspondent with The Wall Street Journal, where he covered federal agencies and political campaigns. View Archive

I am a bureaucrat. Proud of it. These days, it troubles me when I see my profession portrayed as incompetent and protected from economic forces that call for improved performance.

The problem is that such criticism is half right. From my perspective, in large part, public service is constrained by defective and constraining laws, and leadership, that tolerate inefficient management.

It is time for reform. Here are my suggestions.

The public sector rarely looks for savings through better management. Legislators focus mainly on new programs or expanding existing ones, accompanied by budgetary gimmickry to cover increased costs. They work for a bigger share of expenditures in their jurisdictions.

Government employees at the same time, through their unions, view bigger government as a means to increase membership, jobs, promotions and income. By adding administrative layers to organizational structures, staffing opportunities multiply and opportunities for advancements increase.

Can it be changed? Sure. Introduce market forces into the public sector. Simply reward bureaucrats for budgetary savings. It could work with legislators as well.

Give civil servants, say, half the administrative costs they save as salary bonuses, or additional fringe benefits such as additions to their retirement accounts, or the funding of the college education for their kids.

A similar system can be structured to reward members of Congress for savings in program budgets.

Give legislators, say, half the program savings they pass for use in continuing programs in their districts. Reward their efforts to eliminate redundancies or the termination of dysfunctional programs, or the elimination of needless procedural complexities.

Jaime L. Manzano

federal senior executive and foreign service officer (retired), Bethesda

Wis. recall election

Thursday’s column on the implications for federal workers of Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker’s (R) recall election victory generated divergent comments.

The message is pick on this small group of people so my taxes don’t go up when the taxpayer should be interested in seeing that the burden is shared across the taxpayer spectrum. Civil servants wish they were treated like other taxpayers. Instead they were pushed into lower paying wages during good economic times with future benefits promised and now they get that taken away. Par for the course under Republican administrations. The huge debt is built up by cutting taxes to the rich and the debt is then used as an excuse to cut what was promised to civil servants. It is unethical and shameful.


I really hate to gloat, but in the Wisconsin election the majority has slapped the greedy unions down in favor of fiscal responsibility.

No amount of excuses and sour grapes here will change the facts of what has happened.


SEC assessment

At the end of Tuesday’s column was an item about Securities and Exchange Commission employees ranking the agency low in pay satisfaction even though it has the highest average salary of any large agency.

Lacey Dingman, the SEC’s human resources director, said the agency expects its scores to go up when it implements its new pay for performance system. Furthermore, she stated that the “agency and union are beginning the process of establishing what the new compensation structure will be for the agency.”

To the contrary, the SEC has not worked with the union in any meaningful way on performance management or on a new compensation system. Instead, the agency has hired outside contractors to create these systems unilaterally, without taking into account substantive input from the employees’ union representatives. And that is the problem. SEC employees are not at all happy with the results.

Greg Gilman

president of National Treasury Employees Union Chapter 293

Same-sex marriage

Starkly different views followed a recent column about an appeals court ruling, in a case involving federal employees, against a federal law defining marriage as only between a man and a woman.

Marriage is what it is — the union of a man and a woman to produce children and raise them. That is what it has always been — an integral aspect of humanity’s survival. Gay unions are not marriage.


I think it is safe to say that DIVORCE is the biggest threat to marriage in America today. If you believe you need to defend marriage, then you should be fighting for a ban on divorce, not marriage.

To say that someone else’s marriage is against your religion is like getting mad at somebody for eating a jelly doughnut while you are on a diet.


What do people not understand about equal rights? If the government allows one group to benefit from a law, how can you justify not letting another group benefit from the same law?


TSA criticism

Not one comment on a column about the Transportation Security Administration said anything good about the agency.

Airline security should be handled by the airlines. The free market is the best solution, both for safety and for customer satisfaction. The TSA is a dismal failure and should be totally defunded.


Previous columns by Joe Davidson are available at Follow the Federal Diary on Twitter: @JoeDavidsonWP


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