Letters to the Editor

Travel Costs Could Increase

I agree with the opposition of the senators as well as your analysis of the social impact [that a change to travel regulations] would have ["Don't change travel regs," FCW, March 20]. However, after reading the article, I think it is important to realize some of the economic factors that could be impacted by the change.

A look at economic cause and effect would show that if contractors were "free" to look for higher-priced accommodations, and to do so above the stated government rate, it would reduce the demand for "moderate accommodations." This would reduce the corresponding supply in many locations.

Without this downward economic pressure by the government to keep rates low, the "average" expense of "moderate accommodations" will increase. The net result could be greater difficulty by government travelers in finding mod-erate accommodations within the per diem rate in many places throughout the country.

I would also expect an escalation in the average lodging cost over time, thereby increasing the government's program costs for its own travelers. I therefore believe the stated $250 million [in costs for allowing reasonable rates] to be significantly lower than the overall total cost impact on the government following a 10 percent increase in contractor reimbursement.

A related observation and possible counterpoint to my statement above: It has occasioned during some of my government travel that the accommodation providers will quote the government rate, once they determine a traveler is a government employee, when in fact cheaper rates exist and are quoted for nongovernmental travelers at the same location and for the same time period.

In fact, several times, I have stayed at locations that charged me within per diem when the reservation was made "unofficially," but whose stated "government rate" was higher than that published as the per diem amount.

This seems to indicate either an upward economic pressure at some destinations resulting from the published per diem rate or, conversely, the desire by some providers not to rent to the government traveler, depending upon the locality.

I routinely cross-check for cheaper than "government rate" bookings at acceptable accommodations for locations I travel to.

Name withheld by request

U.S. Navy

OPM Regs Too Costly

As a private citizen I would like to thank you for bringing the proposed Office of Personnel Management 12-week administrative work week, paid sick leave to my attention [ "Fed-friendly regs," Bureaucratus Column, FCW, April 17].

I resent the fact that you think federal workers should be able to, at my expense, take 12 weeks off. I cannot, and I do not know of any private company that offers that level of benefit.

You seem rather free with my money: "Of course it will cost money, but the government is running a surplus, so why not?"

[The reason is] because it is my money, not yours and most assuredly not the government's. I've yet to hear an explanation of the government making any money. They take mine and other citizens'.

Thanks again for providing information so that I can call my senator and congressman to voice my feelings on the federal government, and persons such as you, trying to either fleece me or increase the level of socialism in this country.

Ron Snyder

"I Dunno'

The employees responsible for dealing with the public are usually given the mushroom treatment by most bureaucracies ["Customer disservice," FCW, April 24]. Usually these workers have no authority to make changes or request information, merely the responsibility for answering public inquiries. Most of the time, they are provided with rote answers, without justification or background information, and usually without any means of finding out this information within the organizations.

Rarely, if ever, does management or data processing ask if problems exist or if improvements need to be made, and voluntary submissions of problems or suggestions are met with cold silence. The employees who find these conditions (justifiably) infuriating often try to expand the amount of information available, but this is usually discouraged by bureaucracies — sometimes actively, sometimes passively. Motivated employees will usually, eventually, leave.

The remainder are people who can comfortably work within a narrow area of information. Any questions outside this small patch of knowledge will be answered with "I dunno."

Name withheld by request

I want to thank you. Your comments in the Bureaucratus column about the messages and e-mail response we provided related to a failed Savings Bond Connection order were eye-opening. It was not our intention to be misleading or cavalier. I apologize that we came across as both. We will be making changes as a result of your comments.

For each order placed through the Savings Bond Connection, the customer's card issuer must approve the charge. At the time the "Thank You" page on our site is returned to the customer, we do not know if we will receive that approval. That is why an order confirmation is sent within 24 hours. In the case of your failed order, the credit approval was declined. We are not given a specific reason for such declines.

That's what we intended to convey. We did not do it well and, again, I apologize.

Savings Bond Operations Office

Bureau of the Public Debt

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