Letters to the Editor
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?
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.
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"
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.
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
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