Letters to the editor

Many civilian federal employees sleep on the ground for endless days and nights.

Cultivating a Workforce

I have been reading Milt Zall's column for years. Regarding "Equal raises for all" [FCW, May 21]: To set the record straight, many civilian federal employees sleep on the ground for endless days and nights, and do without sleep or get little sleep for extended periods of time. They are the men and women who fight wild.land fires and the people who support them. Many of us even make less on overtime hours than if we had stayed in our "regular" jobs and slept in our own beds because of the overtime cap at a GS 10-11. (Former President Clinton finally signed a bill to waive the cap for wildland fire situations, but it won't take effect until fiscal 2002.)

You might wonder why we take these assignments. It is because, as with our military counterparts, there is a job to be done, and when homes and lives are threatened, we respond. The thing that troubles me is that more than half of the permanent workforce for the Forest Service, the National Park Service and the Bureau of Land Management is 10 years or less away from retirement, and as the existing workforce ages, it gets tougher and tougher to go without sleep and/or sleep on the ground. We do not have the people coming up through the ranks to replace us because, as you know, it's "not cool" anymore to be a federal employee.

I get so tired of everyone, including those in Congress, slamming the civilian workforce. I have never worked for any other agency, but most of us in the Forest Service work hard, put in more hours than we get paid for and enjoy our jobs—most of the time. Trouble is, most of the young people coming out of college are looking for who pays the most, and the government is not it. They may get some experience working for us, or work during the summer to pay for college, but not very many are staying and making a career. They get better offers, and you can't blame them.

So, as you said, "entitled" to more pay based on inflation should not be an issue. The issue is looking at the base pay schedule to begin with and giving everyone a raise based on inflation.

Marilyn Hansen
Forest Service

United Front

Milt Zall's May 21 comment to military readers was on target, if a little rough on the uniformed services. ("Hard as lips on a woodpecker" occurred to me.)

As in every debate, extreme cases can obscure the real issue. No one begrudges the military appropriate pay or recognition for what its members endure for the country. And not all civil service positions are either underpaid or devoid of some of the same challenges and frustrations experienced by uniformed brethren on the government rolls. But there is a middle ground from which inequities in compensation must be attacked. Having experienced life in both camps, I'd like to see a more united front — combined efforts of all government employees seeking appropriate compensation for work performed with accountability and rewards commensurate with performance. A polarized discussion of the relative merits of "civil" vs. "military" service probably doesn't advance that cause—and there is plenty of room for improvements in both camps!

Pete McHugh
U.S. Army (retired) and Federal Aviation Administration

Qualified and Kind

What fun to find an article about our former Fort Collins colleague, Sue Rachlin, in the May 21 edition [" "It was almost a quirk' "].

While it may have been a "quirk" that started her down a very right career path, to have known and worked with Sue was to understand that the rest of her journey would be based on genuine qualifications. Along with her organizational and people skills, Rachlin displayed a quality that I'll long remember her for—kindness.

Fort Collins' loss is indeed Washington's gain.

Laurie Beals
Contractor, Forest Service
Fort Collins, Colo.

Scholarship Help

This is a response to the letter to the editor ("Scholarships for Feds?") by the State Department's Roger Johnson in the June 18 issue.

I recommend that Roger contact the Federal Em.ployee Education and Assistance Fund (FEEA) regarding his interest in applying for a scholarship. FEEA provides scholarships to federal employees and their family members on a competitive basis. More information on FEEA may be obtained at www.feea.org.

Most of the 28 Federal Executive Boards across the country work with the FEEA Fund and have established regional scholarship committees for the program.

Richard Howell
Executive director
Baltimore Federal Executive Board

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