Government efficiency: It's not about the light bulbs

Readers answer the question: "How many feds does it take to change a light bulb?"

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

 

X
This website uses cookies to enhance user experience and to analyze performance and traffic on our website. We also share information about your use of our site with our social media, advertising and analytics partners. Learn More / Do Not Sell My Personal Information
Accept Cookies
X
Cookie Preferences Cookie List

Do Not Sell My Personal Information

When you visit our website, we store cookies on your browser to collect information. The information collected might relate to you, your preferences or your device, and is mostly used to make the site work as you expect it to and to provide a more personalized web experience. However, you can choose not to allow certain types of cookies, which may impact your experience of the site and the services we are able to offer. Click on the different category headings to find out more and change our default settings according to your preference. You cannot opt-out of our First Party Strictly Necessary Cookies as they are deployed in order to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting the cookie banner and remembering your settings, to log into your account, to redirect you when you log out, etc.). For more information about the First and Third Party Cookies used please follow this link.

Allow All Cookies

Manage Consent Preferences

Strictly Necessary Cookies - Always Active

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Sale of Personal Data, Targeting & Social Media Cookies

Under the California Consumer Privacy Act, you have the right to opt-out of the sale of your personal information to third parties. These cookies collect information for analytics and to personalize your experience with targeted ads. You may exercise your right to opt out of the sale of personal information by using this toggle switch. If you opt out we will not be able to offer you personalised ads and will not hand over your personal information to any third parties. Additionally, you may contact our legal department for further clarification about your rights as a California consumer by using this Exercise My Rights link

If you have enabled privacy controls on your browser (such as a plugin), we have to take that as a valid request to opt-out. Therefore we would not be able to track your activity through the web. This may affect our ability to personalize ads according to your preferences.

Targeting cookies may be set through our site by our advertising partners. They may be used by those companies to build a profile of your interests and show you relevant adverts on other sites. They do not store directly personal information, but are based on uniquely identifying your browser and internet device. If you do not allow these cookies, you will experience less targeted advertising.

Social media cookies are set by a range of social media services that we have added to the site to enable you to share our content with your friends and networks. They are capable of tracking your browser across other sites and building up a profile of your interests. This may impact the content and messages you see on other websites you visit. If you do not allow these cookies you may not be able to use or see these sharing tools.

If you want to opt out of all of our lead reports and lists, please submit a privacy request at our Do Not Sell page.

Save Settings
Cookie Preferences Cookie List

Cookie List

A cookie is a small piece of data (text file) that a website – when visited by a user – asks your browser to store on your device in order to remember information about you, such as your language preference or login information. Those cookies are set by us and called first-party cookies. We also use third-party cookies – which are cookies from a domain different than the domain of the website you are visiting – for our advertising and marketing efforts. More specifically, we use cookies and other tracking technologies for the following purposes:

Strictly Necessary Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Functional Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Performance Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Sale of Personal Data

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.

Social Media Cookies

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.

Targeting Cookies

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.