Letter to the Editor

In reading Milt Zall's "Pay parity" column [Federal Computer Week, April 9, 2001], I realized it is apparent that he is truly a civil service employee.

I believe these are the people who formed a union; take months, even years to be fired for incompetence; established a grievance system that produces volumes of paperwork for nothing; and — in most cases — are already paid more than their military counterparts in the same jobs (air traffic controllers, for one).

Furthermore, they are not asked to put their lives on the line at a minute's notice, nor are they required to work many, many hours of overtime for no additional pay. They are not required to live in substandard housing or sleep on the ground for endless days and nights, or do without sleep at all for extended periods of time.

Most of them work 40 hours per week and that's it. I doubt very seriously that there are very many civil service employees that are considered in the "poverty zone" or below. Civil service employees do not "re-enlist" for their jobs, and they are not dismissed if not promoted. They can stay forever and ever.

Their job security is much greater than in the military, simply because several civil service employees have jobs that no one really knows what they are doing or when they are doing it. Most of the time they are not affected by public opinion, as they remain fairly isolated from the news media.

I agree with Mr. Zall in one detail, but he did not take it far enough. I think that there should be a study of both the military and the civil service. This study should not only include "why" the enlistment rate is so low and recruiting so low, it should also include "how many" civil service employees are being used to the fullest extent possible (or even 75 percent of their time being spent in productivity). Granted, a time study engineer would have a field day with both the military and civil service. I believe the military has been cut back so far that proficiency and readiness are very lacking.

I don't believe there are many rank-and-file civil service employees that have the responsibility for, let's say, an $85 million piece of equipment on a day-to-day basis, and for making sure it is ready on a minute's notice to perform. Also, the training of the person that makes that piece of equipment perform is the most critical part of the whole procedure, and it's what the American people are paying for.

Granted, civil service employees are important, but the military has a very different type of job and a very different type of life. Being "in harm's way" should be worth something, so I can't possibly see how military and civil servants should be treated equally. A start would be to bring military pay up to what the civil service is already getting.

Charles Priester
Retired military

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