John Klossner

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Klossner: IBM's double secret probation

In the 1978 movie Animal House, Dean Vernon Wormer of Faber College informs the members of the Delta House fraternity that they are on "double secret probation," a situation that caught them by surprise, not the least of it being caused by the fact that the only person aware of "double secret probation" was Dean Wormer himself. He had good reason for wanting Delta House kicked off campus, and they deserved much of it -- unfortunately he had to make up a process to accomplish his goal.


 



It's good to hear that the federal government has appreciation for classic comedy, although implementing their plots as policy probably doesn't help the government's image. (One can only wonder what policy is based on "The Producers.") When the EPA recently suspended IBM from all government contracts, the move, while apparently complying with existing regulations and guidelines, certainly channeled the spirit of Dean Wormer. And while I'm not accusing anyone in the EPA of acting in an egotistical manner, and I'm certainly not making an analogy of IBM and John Belushi, the policy and process deserves scrutiny.


A disappointing angle to all this is that many larger contractors are huffing and puffing about their federal relationships anyway, and many are threatening to take their balls and go home. Secretive and opaque policies like this aren't helping the discussion.


In considering an editorial angle for this issue, a couple points came to mind:


* To enable agencies to deal quickly and directly with contractor wrongdoing, a series of secretive and lower level steps are allowed -- heck, required -- with the goal of preventing agencies from getting stuck in a bureaucratic roundabout. This might allow individuals to make the call in dealing with a contractor, with minimal communication. An early sketch I did on the topic dealt with this.



* One article had a quote from an official who, in describing this policy, said these were merely "informal guidelines." I found this deliciously vague. Using "informal guidelines," I can throw my children in the lake this summer under the guise of swimming lessons or, in this case, an agency can use "informal guidelines" in dealing with contractors to cover everything from taking away their parking privileges to handing out double secret probation.


Posted by John Klossner on Apr 23, 2008 at 12:18 PM


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