Government efficiency: It's not about the light bulbs

In a recent contest on FCW.com, we asked readers to answer the question, "How many feds does it take to change a light bulb?" We received a variety of answers, but certain themes emerged. Here's a breakdown of the themes with a sample response in each category.

Optimism: As many as we can. First, we need to establish a committee then determine the eventual location of the study group, hire consultants to review the position of relevant special interest groups — after forming another committee and panel to select the candidate groups. Now what was it we were trying to accomplish? (from RK Smith in Idaho)

Pessimism: Zero! It's not in MY job description. Besides, we're used to working in the dark down here. (from t1234 in D.C.)

Cynicism: Hmmm, well, if it's the new guy, it'll only take one. (from someone in Tennessee)

Numbers, low: One. The sad part is that the employee is supposed to be managing, supervising and generally working to the level hired for but is so encumbered by bureaucracy and unable to accomplish these complex tasks, he chooses to change the light bulb to get any small satisfaction out of his day. (from Matt in Norfolk)

Numbers, lower: Zero. We are opposed to change. (Anonymous)

Numbers, high: The answer is 13 — 1 to write the requirement, 3 to review the requirement and approve, 1 resource manager, 1 to review EPA concerns, 1 to do the site survey, 1 contracting officer, 1 purchasing agent, 1 clerk to process the work order, 1 bulb installer, 1 quality assurance evaluator to observe and report, and 1 safety tech. (from Nancy at Schriever Air Force Base)

Numbers, low and high: 1 to complain it's too dark and do nothing, 1 to request that the light bulb be changed, 2 to approve the request, 1 to write the contract, 2 to approve the contract, 1 to oversee the contractor, 1 to evaluate the contractor's work, 1 to submit the request for funding to pay the contractor, 2 to approve the funding, and 1 to complain that it's now too bright. Total: 13 federal employees involved, but the contractor changed the light bulb so really the answer is zero. (from Kate in Pennsylvania)

Bureaucracy: It currently takes the president, both sides of Congress (passing silly rules), the Pentagon (to make more silly rules to keep the politicians happy), someone to report the light bulb as being bad, a second person to report it, a third person to report it, some engineer to get fed up and look for the light cart and change the silly light, and a union rep to write the grievance that a non-union person changed the bulb. Then you have another chain of folks for the grievance. Until I thought about it, I did not realize how many folks were involved in the lights I changed after they were out for three weeks. (from Ray W)

And lastly: None. The job has been contracted out as being "not inherently governmental." (from Steve)

 

Klossner lightbulb 

About the Author

John Klossner is a cartoonist and blogger for Federal Computer Week.

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Reader comments

Fri, Jul 16, 2010 Bob Washington DC

Changing the light bulb. None. There will be a contract issued, after the comittee studies the situation and receives the required bids. After several hundred hours of high salary work, it will be determined that the bulb actually wasn't bad nut the switch was turned off.

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