The Not So Civil Service

At one time, it was considered a great honor to work for the Federal government, and people fought for the jobs and to take the civil service exam. 


The Civil Service was not only a term, but also a reality filled with honor, dedication, and devotion to one’s country. 


Working for the Federal government meant interesting and exciting work opportunities not only defending our great nation, but in making it just and prosperous, and literally a beacon of freedom for the world. 


While no one became rich working for the government, you could make a stable living, build tenure over your service, and finally receive a pension upon retirement. 


Over the course of almost 20-years of my federal career, I have had the opportunity to serve in positions that I only could have dreamed about as a child, and to feel such pride in serving. 


But it seems like times have taken a turn for the worse either willfully or through neglect:


– From Capitol Hill to the Executive Department, we see the extremus of polarization and endless obstacles to getting anything done.  


– With each change in administration, aside from a change of leadership and direction at the top of each Department, the workforce is seemingly accused of subversion for the other side and turned on itself. 


– Just recently, we’ve seen the longest federal government shutdown lasting 35 days and with hundreds of thousands of Federal workers required to work without pay at the time. 


– We have also seen many years of pay freezes–with not even a meager cost of living adjustment (COLA), while the overall economy is booming!


– The pay for grades at the upper levels are hitting up against the Congressional limits with multiple pay steps being the same pay and no increase for career advancement or growth of responsibilities. 


– Employees have been forced to endure the A-76 outsourcings, threats of disbanding entire agencies, demands to reduce the size of government, and hiring freezes even while serving a larger population requiring ever more services. 


– There have been limitations on the power of employee unions, and an ongoing series of tightening of benefits from CERS to FERS and continuing thereafter requiring greater employee contributions and what feels like ever less benefit payouts. 


– Staff are threatened with firing in a short(er) period of time for making a small number of mistakes to a host of “conduct” issues that may or may not be true, and may at times be the outcome of poor leadership rather than problematic employees.


– The system for employment grievances and judging these has gone without a quorum for the longest period on the books and the backlog of cases continues to build. 


While no system is perfect, and there are bad apples on every side, there clearly seems to be a devolution of the federal service, and what this means for governing and for our defense and prosperity is yet to be fully felt. 


For me, serving the Federal government has been one of the greatest honors and has been many of the best years of my life. My wish is for others going forward to have a positive and productive experience as well. 


Perhaps with an appreciation and true respect for the millions of good men and women that serve our country–from the front lines to the back offices–we can once again create a system that is equitable, fair, and just and that inspires the world-class results we needs for our nation and our people. 


(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

Border Security – The Facts

So in this longest of U.S. government shutdowns, one thing that is missing from the debate are an articulation of the facts. 


All I hear day-in and -out is that President Trump wants to build a wall or barrier on the Southern border because there is a crisis. And the Democrats in turn say it’s not necessary, it’s a waste of money, and even that it’s immoral, and that they will resist Trump!


But this is not a reasoned debate!


Who cares who wants what and who hates who in politics.


We need to be presented with a solid communication of facts, figures, and why should we support a position or not. 


Yes, an endorsement by the U.S. Customs and Border Protection is helpful, but the opposition can just claim partisan politics. 


So here are some simple facts to inform the discussion:


Gun Trafficking:

– Over 253,000 guns annually cross the border from the U.S. to Mexico.


Drug Trafficking:

– Cartels send $64,000,000,000 of drugs annually from Mexico to U.S. 


Human Trafficking:

– Between 14,500 and 17,500 people are trafficked annually into the U.S. 


Gang Members:

– Almost 6,000 gang members in 2018 were deported by ICE.


Illegal Immigrants:

– The U.S. and Customer and Border Protection apprehended more than 500,000 illegals trying to enter in 2008, and there are between 12 to 22 million illegals in the U.S, today


Looking at these numbers, I am not sure how anyone can say that the current border situation is secure–it isn’t. 


So whatever we are doing with agents, sensors, surveillance, intelligence, inspection, and interdiction –no matter how good it is–it is not enough. 


Certainly a request for Border Wall funding for $5 billion out of a $4.4 trillion dollar budget and placing barriers on hundreds of miles out of a 2,000 mile border, does not seem at all extreme!


While I do not like to be on a government shutdown, I certainly don’t see why this can’t be resolved with some reasoned border security funding that includes among the other security measures, a wall/barrier. 


A strategically-placed border barrier only stands to reason in a layered defense/system of systems approach to security. 


For some of those that don’t want the wall, and only want votes from a broken immigration system, this is a fight for power, rather than a genuine argument on how to help secure the country. 


(Source Graphic: Andy Blumenthal)

Government Shutdown or Middle East Peace

Please see my new article in The Times of Israel, called Government Shutdown or Middle East Peace.”

“It is day 19 of this p-r-o-l-o-n-g-e-d Federal Government Shutdown. Having plenty of time on my hands today, I am debating which is actually easier to solve–the government shutdown or peace in the Middle East.”


We may have to wait for the Messiah for both of these to be peaceful resolved. 😉


(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

What Does A Government Shutdown Feel Like

So its day 18 of the Federal government shutdown. 


The first couple of weeks wasn’t so bad, because it was the holidays and vacation time (“use or lose”), so I think most people didn’t miss work that much. 


Also, people got paid at the end of December, since the pay cycle is on a two week lag.  


For the first part of the shutdown, there is errands to run and things to catch up on–those things that you always wish you had the time for and well now you do. 


But by now, you’ve already done those errands and cleaned your house and car, shinned up your shoes, and even caught up on some reading. 


Then we also have the missed payroll coming at the end of the week. For those families that are on a single income, this is particularly hard, and even where one partner is working, still your income in cut in half. 


You can’t go out shopping like this!


You also can’t go anywhere–like away–because you need to be available to be back at work on a day’s notice–whether or not it looks like that day is ever coming or not!


Another concern for those that care about their work and getting things accomplished, is that work is like a moving train, and when there is momentum, things can get done–even at the “pace of government.”  But when you come to a full stop like this for an extended period of time, then it will definitely take some time to get everyone back on board the train and for it to get moving at a decent clip again.  Let’s face it, you can’t just turn people on and off like a light switch–you’re dealing with human beings with feelings, plans, and bills. 

Maybe the worst part about the shutdown is feeling like a pawn in the big boys and girls game of Washington Politics–even if you feel the border wall is important, which I certainly do, as federal employee, you still don’t want to feel like the sacrificial lamb. 


Why Congress and the President can’t compromise and give the $5 billion for the wall for something in return like immigration reform or even just give half and call it a day is really beyond my comprehension. 


Out of our $4.4 trillion a year federal budget, how does it make any sense to begrudge a couple of billion for a wall to bring order to the chaos at our southern border–can anyway say “caravan?” 


Let’s face it, drug smuggling, human trafficking, dangerous gangs and terrorists, and illegal crossings have no place in a civilized country, especially the United States of America.  


At some point, our politicians seem to have lost their passion for and dedication to what’s actually good for America and instead replaced it with identity politics and a sick insatiable greed for power, plain and simple. 


All sides need to be patriots and not political kingpins, and they need to give a little to get a little for the betterment of our country overall–maybe then we can move forward. 


And by the way, it would be great at some point to let us go back to work and do our jobs. 😉 


(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

1-2-3-4 Open Up The Government’s Doors

1-2-3-4 Open up the government’s doors


     5-6-7-8 Let our nation operate


1-2-3-4 Open up the government’s doors


     5-6-7-8 Fix our broken directorate



1-2-3-4 Open up the government’s Doors


    5-6-7-8 Better for us to negotiate



1-2-3-4 Open up the government’s doors


    5-6-7-8 Get things done for Goodness sake



1-2-3-4 Open up the government’s doors


    5-6-7-8 We have no more time to cogitate



1-2-3-4 Open up the government’s doors


    5-6-7-8 Get the employees back to progress the state



1-2-3-4 Open up the government’s doors


    5-6-7-8 Blaming each other only exasperate


1-2-3-4 Open up the government’s doors


    5-6-7-8 Democracy means we must work it out



1-2-3-4 Open up the government’s doors


    5-6-7-8 Polarized politics destroys our clout



1-2-3-4 Open up the government’s doors

   

    5-6-7-8 The people are sick and tired of this useless way



1-2-3-4 Open up the government’s doors


    5-6-7-8 Terms limits are needed to sway



1-2-3-4 Open up the government’s doors


    5-6-7-8 Dysfunctional government can’t continue unabate



1-2-3-4 Open up the government’s doors


   5-6-7-8 We’re sick and tired of ignoring realpolitik



1-2-3-4 Open up the government’s doors

   5-6-7-8 Grow up and show some unifying leadership



1-2-3-4 Open up the government’s doors


    5-6-7-8 Finally put people’s needs first



1-2-3-4 Open up the government’s doors


    5-6-7-8 Stop playing with our country’s fate



1-2-3-4 Open up the government’s doors


    5-6-7-8 National security and our economy depend on it



1-2-3-4 Open up the government’s doors


    5-6-7-8 It’s time to get things done and not wait



1-2-3-4 Open up the government’s doors


    5-6-7-8 Serve the people and cut out the hate


(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

Washington Democracy

Nice photo of the Capitol, the Reflecting Pool, and the Botanical Gardens.


Even in cold January in Washington, DC, it is a mighty impressive sight. 


Some of the most important lessons for me:


Democracy never ceases as long as the people rule, freedom is protected, and human rights is respected.


Those in power have an even greater responsibility to ensure they do the right thing and maintain the utmost integrity.  


We have a lot to live up to!


Hope everyone enjoys their weekend and MLK holiday.  😉


(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)