I could be wrong, but I imagine most of the people with the inclination to read blogs are employed. If you are employed, generally speaking you pay taxes (unless you’re an executive that donates a lot of money to politicians). I think most of us pay those taxes, and we’re not particularly happy about it, but we assume that the money is being spent on important things. We might even further imagine that our money is spent efficiently, out of respect for the voters/citizens that pay it. Allow me to burst your bubble.
I cannot go in to detail about where I work, or have worked. But, suffice it to say I have been employed at 4 different 3 letter agencies in the past 8 years. So what I am about to say is not second hand, hearsay, or embellishment for the purposes of pushing a political agenda. It’s just the truth, from the other side of gates and doors you cannot enter.
First of all, let me clear up an integral issue. Budgets are not “cut”. Federal budgets are projected to grow by a certain percentage annually. When you hear that a budget is being “cut” what is actually happening is that the rate of growth is reduced. In other words, if the CIA’s budget for IT resources is projected to increase by 5% next year, and some politician with oversight reduces that growth to 3% he/she is said to have “cut” the CIA IT budget.
It is important to understand this baseline budgeting, because it drives the dysfunction in our government.
How? It’s very simple. If an agency were to actually tighten their belt and reduce spending, that would result in negative growth in the following year’s budget. Just like kids with an allowance, no one wants to get less money. Ever! So somewhere near the end of every fiscal year, panicked emails go out to acquisition agents all across the federal government. These email trickle down to individual contracts and purchasing managers. What happens next is a whole lot of buying of a whole lot of nothing.
I work in IT, so I will use IT as an example.
A contract is approaching the end of the fiscal year with $4,000,000 unspent. So, someone calls Cisco and places an order for $4,000,000 worth of high end switches (which is easy to do, they are expensive). The switches arrive at a warehouse. The contract does not actually need the switches, so they get stacked on a rack in that warehouse, and in many cases they sit there, still in the box, until they are obsolete. Then they are dumped in to a massive shredder which destroys them. And now the contract can demonstrate that they have demolished (demo’d) $4,000,000 worth of equipment…which must, of course, be replaced.
This is how your money is flushed down the toilet year after year, without pause and without fail. Millions and millions of dollars are literally tossed in the trash, having never served a useful purpose.
As astonishing as it is, some people may even be okay with that. That money creates or maintains jobs after all. And that leads me to point two.
We employ people, simply to employ people. A contract has a certain number of FTE’s (Full Time Equivalent). In other words, the number of 40 hour work weeks the contract can support. And the contractor will fill every single one of them, without regard to whether that many people are needed or not. So you wind up with 60 people working a job that 25 people could handle. Tons of redundancy, overlap, and waste. You get people whose position pretty much entails showing up, because there is little or no actual work for them to do. The picture amongst the actual federal employees is even worse.
I have never met, or even heard of, a federal employee that lost their job. When the Supreme Court ruled that the Justice Department no longer needed to enforce voter laws in some southern states, a meeting was held. One division of the DOJ exists solely to enforce that one set of laws, and it had just been announced that their reason for existing was going away. At the meeting it was announced that no one would be losing their jobs, even though their jobs just lost them.
This scenario plays out across agencies far and wide, many of which you have never even heard of. Like the Appalachian Electrification Agency, whose mission was fulfilled decades ago.
I know people who have been caught literally having sex in the office. I know people who have committed blatant security violations. There was a story in the news not long ago of a guy who did not report to work for something like 20 years, and the government paid him anyway. There is little or no accountability at any level. Even when Congress gets involved in their oversight role, what you see and hear is bluster for the cameras. No one is actually fired, fined, imprisoned, or sanctioned in any way. Witness Hillary Clinton being issued a subpoena by Congress, and simply refusing to honor it. Eric Holder was found in contempt of Congress, and absolutely nothing happened to him.
In the race to win a contract so a company can bill hours, they lowball the bid. This results in a highly technical contract being populated with 2 guys who are SME’s (Subject Matter Experts), and 40 guys/gals who know little or nothing about the technology. As an example, I once found myself in a 24/7, mission critical operations center staffed entirely by copier and printer repair men, junior sys admins, and kids fresh out of college. Systems upon which the lives of U.S. Troops actually depended, staffed by a completely unqualified group of people (including me), with fingers crossed hoping we learned what we needed to know fast enough to avoid a disaster. And that is par for the course.
So the next time you drive past some federal facility, or hear one being discussed on the news bear this in mind. 30-40 percent of the people on the other side of the fence do little or nothing for a living. Millions and millions of your dollars went in to granite floors, marble sculptures, big ass leather couches and executive chairs, etc. The seats at the hundreds of cubes in each and every building cost, give or take, about $3k a pop. Tens of thousands of reams of paper and tons of printer ink are expended annually, in the 21st century. People schedule meetings to discuss the schedule for the next meeting.
YOU are paying for this. You might want to consider asking for your money back.