Letter to the editor

The following letter was directed to Milt Zall, writer of Federal Computer Week's Bureaucratus column.

I feel compelled to get some frustration off my chest in regard to your recent column, "Feds deserve equal pay." I came across it online while searching for information about pay.

In my opinion, you are way off base and I am insulted by the majority of your comments that were directed at the military pay raise issue. I understand that you have strong feelings about pay raises for civilian federal employees and that may be why you threw caution to the wind while discussing your issues. I would like to break down some of the comments for you.

You wrote:

"I'm not opposed to providing combat pay for those who lay their lives on the line, but most military personnel are far removed from the battlefield, performing duties similar to those performed by civilian employees.

"And even if a case can be made that their duties are more demanding, these people volunteered — they weren't drafted. For many, military service is the only way out of the inner city and a chance for a decent life. Do we now have to offer even more inducements? Why are military personnel entitled to more of a raise than feds when annual raises are essentially annual inflation supplements?"

Here's what I have to say:

1. I was under the understanding that there was no draft for civilian federal employees, that it too was volunteer. Has something changed? I think maybe you should look at the word volunteer again when it comes to the military. Civilian federal employees volunteer for their jobs, however, they can leave their job if they choose so that they may pursue higher pay or advancement in their field. Military volunteers are legally bound to their jobs and leaving is not an option.

2. How dare you stereotype the type of person in the military or why they choose to enlist — totally irresponsible in the year 2002.

3. Gosh, I am glad that if I put my life on the line, you have no problem with compensating it with money.

4. We may perform similar jobs, but civilian employees get paid based on approximate hours worked. When I deploy and defend my country from my "office" on a ship for six straight months, my pay does not reflect my approximate hours. If it did, I would be too wealthy to bother myself with this letter.

5. I am forced to leave my job every three or so years, pack up my whole life and family and move so that we can settle down and do it again in another three or so years. Must be nice to be able to stay in one area as long as one chooses.

Sir, you missed the mark. The military pay raise is not only for inflation, it is to resurrect our pay deficiencies. If the military pay raise can only match the civilian pay raise, then sir, I am sorry, but the government would go bankrupt before the military was compensated fairly. Add up all of the salaries for civilian federal employees, then add 4.1 percent. Now do the same for military members, and you would see your 4.1 percent cost a tremendous amount more.

The only way you would have any ground to stand on about equal raises is if we both had the same pay chart. That's the mark you missed — the military pay chart humanely deserves more consideration, and I applaud President Bush for trying to do something for those who have no control over the matter.

A response would be appreciated.

Firecontrollman 1st Class Bell
U.S. Navy

Response from Milt Zall:

There's no question that the sacrifices made by military personnel are real. But they're not made for money, so talking about comparable raises really is absurd. As for being "forced" to leave and move every three years, you're not really being forced to do anything.

You chose to stay in the military, but then you gripe about conditions. There's no logic here. You can choose a different field of endeavor if you don't like military life. It's hard for me to understand why you begrudge civil servants an equal cost-of-living allowance.

Reply from letter-writer:

Mr. Zall, your reply changes my feelings of frustration about how you express your opinions to concerns about your motives and tactics as a writer. Your reply ignored every aspect of my letter. I have no problem with pay raises for civilian federal employees. I think everyone deserves more money, no question.

My reason for writing to you was because I felt insulted as a military member by some of your comments. I am not one to beat a dead horse, but let's rehash your reply.

Why is it just because someone is in the military that his or her sacrifices are for reasons other than money? I love my country, yes. So does that mean I would (or should) do my job for free? Absolutely not. I love my job, I love the Navy; it is the career I chose. Why can't I be paid competitively so that I can afford to stay in?

As for being "forced" to transfer regularly, the answer is yes, I am "forced." If I want to stay in the military, I must go where and when they need me. If I wanted to leave my job, I would have to wait until the end of my current enlistment, which is quite longer than a two-week notice.

I do not gripe about the military, sir. Let me scream to the world that I love my country, I love my job, I love the Navy, and I won't turn my back on my elected officials if they feel it is fiscally irresponsible to give me a raise.

I would never begrudge any person a "cost-of-living increase." I was just saying that tied into our "cost-of-living increase" is our "let's-start-by-compensating-the-military-fairly increase."

Thank you very much, sir, and let's hope that we both can continue to prosper at the careers we both admire.

Firecontrollman 1st Class Bell
U.S. Navy


We welcome your comments. To send a letter to the editor, use this form.

Please check out the archive of Letters to the Editor for fellow readers' comments.


  • Workforce
    Shutterstock image 1658927440 By Deliris masks in office coronavirus covid19

    White House orders federal contractors vaccinated by Dec. 8

    New COVID-19 guidance directs federal contractors and subcontractors to make sure their employees are vaccinated — the latest in a series of new vaccine requirements the White House has been rolling out in recent weeks.

  • FCW Perspectives
    remote workers (elenabsl/Shutterstock.com)

    Post-pandemic IT leadership

    The rush to maximum telework did more than showcase the importance of IT -- it also forced them to rethink their own operations.

Stay Connected