Friday, April 25, 2008

Still Incompetent

Every once in a while, you read something that just sticks with you. It happened when I read Thomas Oliphant’s recent book, “Utter Incompetents”. The central theme of the book is that -- like him or hate him -- the Bush Administration’s term has been marked by incompetence. This edited quote provides a good example:

”Another reason the Dubai (Dubai Ports World) deal fiasco is such a perfect metaphor is that it doesn’t matter what your views on the merits of the issue are. You can believe that it was perfectly straightforward commercial transaction... You can believe it was probably a sensible transaction but deserved very careful scrutiny... Or you can believe that in this new and dangerous environment it is simply not prudent...

It doesn’t matter. Whatever your point of view, Bush’s handling of this mess was inept from start to finish, the real reason it ultimately collapsed.“

That thought -- implanted by Mr. Oliphant’s book -- was brought back to the surface today when I read this story from The Washington Post.

Bush Plan To Contract Federal Jobs Falls Short -- Scope and Savings Have Not Met Goals

”"The competitive sourcing initiative did little to improve management, produced a ton of worthless paper, demoralized thousands of workers and cost a bundle, all to prove that federal employees are pretty good after all," said Paul C. Light, a professor of government at New York University's Wagner Graduate School of Public Service. “

In short, President Bush took what was a Clinton program (remember Al Gore’s Reinventing Government ?), tossed in a strong dose of ideology, mixed it with a lethal dose of incompetence and failed to accomplish anything. Except for ruining the lives of more U.S. citizens of course.

Continuing in the vein of Mr. Oliphant’s book, even if you agree with the ideology (and I most definitely do not) you have to cringe at the incompetence. Because the program was handled so poorly, it will prove to be politically difficult to continue or expand the program in the future should anyone desire to. It has a proven track record -- Bush’s track record -- of not working.

Obviously, President Bush doesn’t run the government by himself. It’s in this area -- when you delve into it -- that shows his incompetence. Here’s a trick I use whenever I read an article on-line and you can use it too. A Mr. Clay Johnson III is mentioned in the article. So I looked him up on Wikipedia.

Clay Johnson III is the Deputy Director for Management at the Office of Management and Budget at the White House.

Prior to becoming OMB Deputy Director, he was the Assistant to the President for Presidential Personnel. He has served President Bush since his tenure as Governor of Texas, achieving the rank of Chief of Staff prior to leading the Bush-Cheney presidential transition. “

A hand-picked political appointee. You might want to lay the blame for the program at his feet but President Bush still picked him.

In the comments section of the article, another name popped up -- David Safavian. So, I looked him up.

David Hossein Safavian (born August 4, 1967) is a former chief of staff of the United States General Services Administration (GSA) and a figure in the Jack Abramoff lobbying and corruption scandal. In 2004, he was an employee of the Office of Management and Budget. He was arrested and charged with crimes in connection with the Abramoff corruption scandal. He was convicted and, on October 27, 2006, sentenced to 18 months in prison. “

“In 1997, Safavian and Grover Norquist founded a lobbying firm, the Merritt Group, which was renamed Janus-Merritt Strategies (and is sometimes referred to as "Janus Merritt" or simply "Janus"). The tenor of the firm was fiercely ideological. "We represent clients who really do have an interest in a smaller federal government," Safavian told Legal Times in a 1997 interview. "We're all very ideologically driven, and have a bias in favor of free markets." He went on: "We're not letting people who offer us money change our principles."”

Time and time again you find people with the “correct” political ideology in the Bush Administration failing to administrate effectively. Ideology trumped competency. The damage that has been done is colossal.

Those of us in aviation don’t have to look any further than the contracting out of the FAA’s Flight Service Stations to know that the true agenda was ideology as opposed to a matter of practical governance. The contracting out of FSS has been a disaster no matter how you look at it. One of the supposed tests for determining whether to contract out a job is called “the Yellow Book test.” If you can find a job in the yellow pages of the phone book it might be a candidate for outsourcing. You won’t find a listing for Flight Service Specialists in the Yellow Book. You will find a listing for secretaries. The FAA never contracted out the secretaries. Just the FSS controllers.

I wasn’t contracted out and I (for one) won’t forget it. Imagine how the people that were contracted out feel about it. How would you feel if your pension was sacrificed on the altar of someone’s political ideology ? Even worse, it becomes clearer every day that the ideology was ineffective -- administered by people that were incompetent at best and criminal at worst. Do you think they’ll vote Republican ?

Civil Service, mine safety, port security, mortgage lending, Iraq, New Orleans. Incredibly diverse issues all bound together by a common thread -- an incompetent Administration.

Don Brown
April 25, 2008

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