Letters to the editor

Compressed Productivity

With regard to an Aug. 6 item in "The Circuit" about Alphonso Jackson, Department of Housing and Urban Development deputy secretary, prohibiting supervisors at his agency from working a compressed schedule, I say: Congratulations, Mr. Secretary, you just instituted a 20 percent drop in productivity.

What used to take four days now takes five, not counting the loss of morale in doing away with one of the most highly valued and least costly benefits to federal employees.

In times when Federal Computer Week and similar publications are sounding the alarm over the impending mass exodus of federal employees due to dissatisfaction and eligibility for retirement and the difficulty in recruiting people for careers in government, some micro.managing, control freak, Type A personality idiot gets rid of one of the better inducements for a federal job.

The compressed schedule is not just a win-win situation, but a win-win-win situation. Not only do federal managers get the work done sooner, the employees get more time off than they get from annual leave, and it does not cost the taxpayers a dime.

I work a compressed schedule, and I think it is my best benefit. I had the opportunity to take a short course recently, and many of my fellow students were from private industry. We discussed the benefits of our jobs, and when I told them about compressed schedules, they were envious. Envious of federal jobs—how often have you heard that lately?

So, Mr. Secretary, stop this tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing, and admit that you just want your managers there at your beck and call. You are fooling nobody. You do a great disservice to a group of dedicated, professional people who I'm sure will work—schedule or no schedule—whatever time is necessary to get done what needs to be done.

One more question: Do under.secretaries have annual reviews, and if so, how do you explain this quantifiable loss of productivity to your boss?

Thomas Podlesak
Electronics engineer
Army Research Laboratory
Adelphi, Md.

Trust in Contractors

I feel compelled to respond to the letter by "Name Withheld" implying that contractors are not as trustworthy as career civil servants and, as such, should be limited in their performance of many of the functions the federal government cannot perform within the current civil servant force structure. It is clear the writer has little or no empirical evidence to support his or her assertions or concerns ["Contracting out is risky," FCW, Oct. 1].

For example, contractors are subject to the same security background investigations that civil servants go through. In some areas, such as national security, we actually have to go through more stringent security checks than some of our government colleagues. In addition, we are scrutinized on a regular basis, and our facilities and processes must comply with numerous policies and instructions.

Only someone who lacks a true appreciation of the contributions made by contractors could make or even suggest some of the implications made by the letter-writer. Many of us are former or retired civil servants or military personnel. Some of us, including myself, serve the government in dual capacities—contractor and military reservist.

The writer, attempting to resolve his or her own insecurities, instead merely discards us as second-class citizens ready to lop off a civil servant at the first opportunity. I would remind the writer that career civil servants have committed many of our worst cases of espionage (a la John Walker, Aldrich Ames, Robert Hanssen).

The writer's pompous comments are demeaning and clearly represent the kind of mindset that encourages an "us vs. them" mentality in government outsourcing. We are Americans, trying to provide a service, and we deserve a little better respect than that demonstrated by the writer's misguided and uninformed comments.

Sean Keller

Identifying a Solution

Regarding facial recognition and a national ID card ["Facing the need for biometrics," FCW, Oct. 1]: We could use this technology and other biometrics, such as fingerprints and iris scans, to improve visas and passports and eliminate fraud.

If this information, along with the information we currently print on existing documents, were simply digitally signed and encoded on a national ID card, most fraud would be halted, and known travelers could get through immigration lines much quicker.

J.B. Fields
JB Fields & Associates


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