Letters to the editor

Money Isn't the Main Concern

I'm not sure that money is the main retention problem in government. For me, it is an advantage of government service that I do not find myself working around a lot of back-stabbing mercenaries.

Truthfully, happiness boils down to the ability to live within one's budget, and pay is a lot less crucial to peo--ple than other factors, such as one's relationship with co-workers and bosses, and certainly the biggest factor is recognition. Unfortunately, for technical workers, government leaders are sometimes considerably more derelict in these latter categories than in the category of pay, as bad as the pay may seem.

Government is still run by bureaucrats who frequently have little understanding of technology, let alone what it may mean in terms of competitive advantage or services for taxpayers.

A younger generation is seeing technology change business and the world. But in government, frequently those who gain the highest positions and greatest recognition are not those we see as the most innovative. The popular, in government circles, seem most often to be those who are less competent but who make fewer waves.

The aversion of government to change can be seen clearly as the average age of government employees and managers moves upward rather than accepting new blood and new ideas. This aversion creates an environment that is hostile to the best minds of our current age. Moreover, even when the topic is not high-tech, one must interact with people in the federal government who are often incredibly incompetent. Good employees will not stick around if they cannot get things done and can't find good help within their organization.

I have aggressively pursued technical competence, becoming certified not only in basic PC technology, but also in the Internet, Microsoft networking and as a technical trainer. I just finished teaching Microsoft Windows 2000 Active Directory Services for a leading state university. Currently, my hourly rate for teaching night classes for the university is nearly twice my government compensation level, and the going rate for full-time contract trainers exceeds even that. With 24 years of government service, I can retire at any time on a deferred annuity retirement, or a regular retirement with the early retirement penalty.

As I write this, the e-mail system where I work in the Bureau of Consular Affairs is down for the second day in a row. Several years ago, I tried to promote the notion that we needed a formal disaster recovery plan, and we still do not have one. The State Department's shortcomings in the arena of security are legendary, and you may guess that policy-makers are just now learning that disaster recovery is a key part of a responsible security plan.

I just read that Barnes & Noble, with its Compaq PC and Windows 2000 architecture, had zero downtime for the past year. In contrast, we have been comfortable for years with a mainframe that has had to go down once a week for routine maintenance. Should it be any surprise that we are just now waking up to an e-mail system that sees several days of outages in a single quarter? Yet, this is an institution that—rather than reward those who do pursue excellence—penalizes us when we fail to get along with those who are responsible for such measurable shortcomings.

This is the reality of government employment, as I have known it.

It's not the money. It's a question of the feasibility of success and going where the future is. It is a question of where I will find people who want more of my capabilities and contributions rather than seeing the truth about engineering shortcomings as troublesome.

An organization that does not understand the need of Internet access for its employees in this age may not have legitimate justification for its existence.

Name withheld upon request

Another Pay Raise Problem

I read Milt Zall's Jan. 8 Bureaucratus column, "Pay raise spells trouble," and agree with his analysis.

One additional potential problem that could occur is that if they use the same interpretation as they do for the engineers in special pay categories, these same employees (especially at the GS-12 level) will not receive any increase in pay.

For engineers, the special pay provision states that the engineer will get the larger of either the special pay or locality increase, but not both.

Other employees assume that engineers are getting an increase, but in reality, there is no change to their gross pay. Their base pay increases, but they only get part of the locality adjustment. This is true in most large areas that have a separate locality adjustment.

Douglas Magale General engineer

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