Letters to the Editor

Travel-regs equality

I've been a federal contractor for the past nine years, after my retirement from military service. I couldn't agree more with [Steve Kelman's] stand on travel reimbursement ["Don't change travel regs," FCW, March 20].

The last thing I want is for my clients to think I have better accommodations and perks than they have for the same travel. I routinely travel with my clients, staying in the same hotels, eating with them at the same restaurants and sharing the same rental car.

Other than shoddy, unresponsive business performance, I can think of no faster way to alienate myself from them than to foster the perception that I'm a "fat cat" contractor getting over on them.

Given this, it annoys me to think that there are contractors actually pushing for these changes to the Federal Travel Regulation. Publicly embarrassing them might go a long way in getting them to backpedal.

Why don't you post a list of names in this forum?

Bob Dillard

Vienna, Va.

I agree with [Kelman]. I'm a longtime fed and have worked on a billion- dollar cost-plus-award-fee contract at the Internal Revenue Service.

As a fed, I live within the per diem limits set by the government, and I don't find myself staying at fleabag hotels or eating at McDonald's. We get reimbursed sufficiently to live reasonably; that should be adequate compensation for contractors as well.

Further, I would point out that I sometimes opt to exceed the per diem limits and "eat" the difference — because I feel like it.

I have to eat three meals a day when I'm not on travel, and it costs me something. If I go on a business trip and exceed per diem, I probably am not spending more total dollars than I would at home for the same period. And if I do, it's because it was worth it to me. The total out-of-pocket expense is never all that much.

Seems to me that contractors can make the same decisions. And if their companies want to eat some or all of the excess over per diem rates, that's fine with me, too.

But, as the saying goes, "There's no free lunch." It costs something to live, whether you're on travel or not.

Neil McNamara

National Credit Union Administration

"Smart ship' lessons from "Star Trek'

In an ideal world, where software and hardware are near-perfect, the idea to reduce the crew size of the Navy's DD-21 Land Attack Destroyer and supplant it with electronics is a good idea ["'Smart ship' a smart idea?" and "Too clever by half," FCW, March 13]. However, rarely do such lofty ideas hold true in real-world situations.

Look at the NASA's Mars project. Reports now say the project was some 30 percent underfunded, yet I am sure those in charge were among the flag-wavers who agree without question with the administration's "do-more-with-less" battle cry.

The "cut the budget to the bone" insanity will one day cost lives. We need to rethink this entire way of funding, planning and execution for all our Defense projects.

I personally tire of the do-more-with-less credo the federal government has been spewing for years. Ask the people who live under such rules, and see what kind of input you get. Most of it will be negative.

Some of us saw the article and jokingly referred to an episode of "Star Trek," called "The Ultimate Computer," in which the entire crew of 400 was replaced by a handful of people by a computer named M-5. Then, "something went wrong" and control could not be wrested from the quirky super-PC. I suppose the Windows interface in that time generated crashes and blue screens of death as well as it does today.

Perfection in a fantasy land didn't exist, and it surely doesn't apply here and now. Until we have perfect code and perfect software and hardware marriages, I doubt the smart ship is in the best interest of everyone involved.

Joe Madajewski

Engineering Draftsman

Nanticoke, Pa.

It's a wonderful life

Isn't it great being a government emergency employee? Look at the benefit you receive: You get to come to work when the rest of the government is closed due to weather or budget problems and receive nothing in return for your actions.

Why can't the government come up with a method to reward those who see certain areas of the government continue to operate? An extra day's pay, as if it were a "nonofficial" holiday or even overtime?

Let's travel back in time a few years. The government closed down due to budget problems for several days in November 1995 and almost the entire month of December 1995. We worked. Everyone else in our center was off and then even got their "use or lose" restored — a double vacation for many!

Then the snow of January 1996 hit. We, the emergency employees, were here. And we were here again this past January when the government closed for two days.

Well, that's off my chest — back to work.

Name withheld by request


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