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
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
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
I routinely cross-check for cheaper than "government rate" bookings
at acceptable accommodations for locations I travel to.
Name withheld by request
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
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.
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,
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,
Savings Bond Operations Office
Bureau of the Public Debt