2/12/03: Privatization Hammers Morale

Officials who are genuinely concerned about morale in their agencies and offices should be aware of something. It’s probably a lot worse than you think. A...

Officials who are genuinely concerned about morale in their agencies and offices should be aware of something. It’s probably a lot worse than you think. And pay, health premiums and the 401k plan slide have nothing to do with it.

Despite the fact that the boss-devoted palace guard tells you that you are loved, admired and respected, be advised, many of your best, highly-trained and motivated employees are scared to death — of you. They are afraid that the government is going to dump them and privatize their jobs. Many feds, from the National Institutes of Health to the Pentagon, are being forced to spend too much time worrying about their jobs.

Some are scared and rightly so, at the prospect of losing a steady paycheck. Nothing wrong with that. Only rich politicians, who picked the right parents or the right spouse, can say money means nothing to them!

Other feds have another concern. They worry about the economic and strategic impact that near total privatization will have on the taxpayers and the government’s ability to move-fast and get the work done right.

So bosses listen up! Here’s the real deal.

“I worked for a contractor for many years,” a fed writes, “and I know the drill. The first year you under-bid the government and get the contract. The next year you raise the amount. By the third contract you’ve got the expertise and your hooks in the program, then you start making big bucks.”

Another government worker, also a former contractor said, “Don’t these politicians understand what they are doing? To cut costs, a lot of contractors don’t offer health insurance. That leaves many of their workers uncovered and their ‘doctor’ is the hospital emergency room, which other taxpayers pay for.”

Or this, from a long-time engineer who works at a “premier medical facility” in the greater Washington area. He notes that during emergencies and snowstorms, he is considered “essential” but when his job is cost-compared for privatization he isn’t so essential. “There seems to be no end to the funds used to hire contractors while we go wanting…As a former contractor I know that it’s all about profit in the private sector and not in the government — but that is what bodes well for the taxpayer. I keep really old equipment running… in private industry my instructions were not to repair, but replace. It fattens up the company’s bottom line…Government workers are dedicated to the mission, not profits…When I came into government it wasn’t for good pay, but rather job security. Now I have neither.”

A decade ago a major federal agency was told it was getting “too big, too bureaucratic.” To accomplish its mission it hired more contractors. Then more. Today, it has more contract employees than civil servants. Many of the contractors get extra pay when a project works well. But they also get docked if things go wrong, according to the Washington Post. In recent years, the Post reported, some have paid out a total of over $42 million in fees.

The agency in question? NASA.

EDITOR’S NOTE: A certain federal columnist enjoys breaking birthday news. And since turn-about’s-fair-play, the staff at FederalNewsRadio.com want to wish Mike Causey, fed-watcher, friend and Pappy, the best birthday ever today.

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