Like (hopefully) most Americans I have been following the unfolding scandals enveloping our Federal Government. And (hopefully) unlike most Americans I follow these scandals with a bit of personal interest based on direct exposure to several cases of what I would have to label “Waste, Fraud & Abuse.” I have written about these earlier in “Me and the Solyndra Flare-out.”
In summary, the Navy Civil Service (not the contractors) was deliberately abusing their power and authority, and wasting funds by creating very costly and unnecessary new systems in order to protect a segment of work that was threatened by a replacement acquisition.
I resisted this internally with memos, whitepapers and alternative proposals … meetings, and at one point made my case to the Civil Servant boss at NavAir in Washington DC who was in charge of all of our projects. All to no avail until the “pork” project collapsed under the weight of non performance, and was canceled.
And, at one point during a meeting I was told by a Civil Service boss to “Shut up and sit down … this is a political decision!”
This was no small issue, and involved expenditures that were closing in on $1,000,000 and rising. Funds that could have gone to our primary mission of providing training to our combat aircrew war-fighters.
I was but one lonely voice in the wilderness in one small lab crying wolf. But I wondered at the time, is this an anomaly? Or does this sort of thing happen on a regular basis across the entire government?
I had no way of knowing … no way of finding out. Just a nagging suspicion that my lab was not the outlier.
… until now!
As I mentally review some of the scandals of the recent years I see:
- Solyndra and other politically directed green project failures.
- The GSA conference extravaganzas.
- The Secret Service prostitution scandals in Columbia.
- Stimulus spending directed to political friends.
- Excessive and elaborate conference spending at the IRS (and elsewhere?)
- IRS targeting of conservative organizations.
- The NSAs total surveillance of all American telecom.
- Extravagant spending on first family vacations.
- Various State Department cover-ups.
- The prevalence of “use-it-or- lose-it” budget strategies across most government agencies.
- * * *
- And more ….
So yes I now see evidence that my experience … that of witnessing “Waste, Fraud & Abuse” is probably widespread across the government. I now see evidence that my feeble attempt at “whistleblowing” was the right thing to do though I never doubted that I was right in speaking out, but damn it sure was lonely.
And I do feel empathy for Mr. Snowden at the NSA, and the three high level NSA employees that preceded Snowden in Whistleblowing (Snowden himself was a low level contractor) as well as other whistleblowers at IRS and the State Department.
There is a serious problem across the board in government. A big part of the problem, aside from the political problems, lies with Civil Service. So what can be done … do I have suggestions?
- A RIF (Reduction in Force) of 15-20+% across the entirety of the Civil Service work force. This RIF should be weighted very heavily towards mid and high level management (GS-13 and above). Those GS-13 and above in non-management roles should be valued for their experience and weighted low in the RIF process.
- Whistleblowing should be institutionalized in the day-by-day work experience of government agencies. Some ways this can be done might be:
- In all procurement documents such as Requests For Proposals (RFPs), System Specifications, Purchase Requisitions, Problem and Bug Reporting etc. attach an “Ethics” gate to each and every requirement, purchase request, problem/bug report and more, whereby anyone on a project can flag questionable items. Such items would be logged into a formal reporting system and subject to review beginning with a peer review which specifically excludes management.
- Eliminate any and all unions from the Federal work force.
- Find ways of proper and fair personnel evaluations at the higher levels of Civil Service management; this to weed out those with a record of questionable activities.
- Eliminate the “use-it-or-lose-it” budget shenanigans seen at the end of the budget year.
Yes … I do feel a bit of vindication for my activities back in the late 90s … but it is a very hollow vindication.
Don Johnson – June 2013