Government Agencies Run For the Benefit of Their Employees

I have written before that the single best framework for explaining the actions of most government agencies is to assume they are run for the benefit of their employees.  This certainly seems to be the case at the FAA, which can't over 10+ years complete a modernization of its computer system or match free, private Internet tools for flight tracking, but it was able to very quickly publish a web application to promote the danger of the sequester.  Public service is not even on these guys radar screens, as they have shown themselves completely willing to screw the public in a game of chicken to get more funding back for their agency

But after Mr. Coburn published his letter on his website, FAA regional employees wrote to blow the whistle on their bosses. As one email put it, "the FAA management has stated in meetings that they need to make the furloughs as hard as possible for the public so that they understand how serious it is."

Strategies include encouraging union workers to take the same furlough day to increase congestion. "I am disgusted with everything that I see since the sequester took place," another FAA employee wrote. "Whether in HQ or at the field level it is clear that our management has no intention of managing anything. The only effort that I see is geared towards generating fear and demonstrating failure." Just so.


  1. HenryBowman419:

    Warren, to be fair, you must realize that the FAA, like many other government agencies, is under intense pressure from the Big Zero to make life as miserable as possible for the traveling public. In other words, they are just following orders. Without such orders, they would not have put up the web app in question -- they would simply have done nothing.

  2. Matthew Slyfield:

    "In other words, they are just following orders."
    Not a valid excuse for what amounts to misconduct.

  3. marque2:

    Funny thing is that if they didn't have Big O's orders they would have done even less - Still have furloughed all the flight controllers, but not even bothered to put a post on the web page.

  4. marque2:

    You know what is really sad. Air traffic is down 13% compared to 5 years ago, and not one air traffic controller has been laid off. You would think a 6% cut in Air Traffic controller time would not make a difference.

    Sad fact is over the last five years ATC productivity has gone down 13%

  5. nehemiah:

    Amazingly, service at Dulles and Reagan airports will not experience sequester related delays. Something about better spacing? Hogwash. The ruling class protected again.

  6. skhpcola:

    Hell, it's worse than you apparently think that it is. Look here:

    "Obama requested $15.172 billion to run the FAA for 2013 and Congress
    initially gave him $16.668 billion. The sequester has since cut the
    FAA’s budget by $669 million, leaving the agency with $15.999 billion.
    That’s right: Even after the sequester “cuts,” the FAA actually has more
    money to spend this year than Obama originally asked for to begin with."

    Jail time needs to be in the futures of quite a few of these thieving Obamunists. LartardedGee?! will be along shortly to defend making the public suffer, because "WABBITS!!1!" or something.

  7. nick caruso:

    I 100% agree with you on a functional level; that is, this description is a perfectly valid one until it ascribes motive.

    But it's neither useful nor necessarily true to say that "public service isn't even on these guys' radar."

    Put people in an environment and certain behaviors will be reinforced, others will not. Some (most?) of them probably believe they are doing something that benefits the public.

  8. Boglee:

    Wow, way back when I worked for the government, we feared a congressional investigation like no other, looks like things have changed, nobody is scared of the toothless congress now.

  9. mesaeconoguy:

    Correct, but is basis for action against the order giver.

  10. mesaeconoguy:

    Breach of executive duty, impeachable offense.

  11. Harry:

    Has anybody looked at a plane ticket carefully since, say, thirty years ago? In every ticket there are seven or eight taxes and fees that are supposed to pay for the security, departure cost, et cetera. Beyond that the air carrier has to absorb all sorts of fees, taxes, and charges that are not included in the ticket price. So there is plenty of money to pay forthe air traffic controllers, the police with the K-9 dogs, the security people, and the sensors and razor wire around the perimeter. For example, my daughter just sent me a copy of her ticket to and from Rome, and there was roughly $940 in fees and taxes. That ought to be enough, even to ensure the pensions of the Italian baggage handlers.

    So when BHO or Ray LaHood say they have to cut back on air traffic controllers, they are thinking, "How much bu****it can we jam down the throats of these stupid proles today?"

  12. FelineCannonball:

    On web development: I believe there are widespread agency rules (based in congressional statutes from the Gingrich era) which prevent agencies from competing significantly with private companies in data accessibility. It's true for the Interior department. It's true for NOAA. It's true for NASA. And it's almost certainly true for the FAA.

    It's funny because in some ways the USGS and weather service in the 1990's had better data accessibility than they do today. I wouldn't have minded if they had partnered with someone that thought like Google (expand the market instead of squeezing blood out of it) -- but many of these data sets created by our tax dollars are relatively inaccessible or behind steep pay walls. Short term monetization was a long-term failure.

    An example that particularly annoys me is the National Weather Service. It has by far the best website and data accessibility on the web, but is prohibited from creating certain visualization improvements or developing apps for smart phones.

  13. MARK:

    If you think the FAA is broken, what about the TSA? I was at the airport recently to pick up my parents. I had to wait 45 minutes for them. I actually love the airport and sat in the mezzanine level above the ticketing level (MSP airport). It was in the evening at 9PM, so the airport was not very busy. Directly across from me was the scanner that they use to scan large items like golf clubs. In my 45 minutes of sitting watching them, ONE traveler came through. THe rest of the time, the three, count them, three guys stood there chatting. The security checkpoint next to their station was similarly featherbedded.

    I understand for a fixed hour facility that there are going to be times when the labor is underutilized. Your facility may be "open" until 10pm and the cost efficiency of the last employee working might be low. But the problem with governmnet work is that just a single employee is being underutilized, much less three. AND, if you have a store or restaurant, your closing time employees are engaged in other essential tasks , like stocking shelves and cleaning. The TSA agents just sit n their ass doing nothing.

    I did figure out why this exists though. Consider that 80% of the people that go through the airport and would consider this an inefficient utilization of tax payer resources either are too busy to care or vote Republican anyways. The other 20% probably wish they could get such a job, and the people who support it simply don't go to airports.

  14. FelineCannonball:

    TSA is a post 911 debacle, not a partisan debacle. Over reach in a lot of things. Small airports get expensive security infrastructure and the minimum personnel to man it for pulses in light traffic. Larger airports don't have the architectural design, space, or manpower to do the job without massive delays. It will get better if we relax some rules and redesign some airports, but you aren't going to get cheap self-service security.

  15. HenryBowman419:

    Correct, that was the point. Perhaps I should have enclosed the statement in ....

  16. iowa_bill:

    In fairness to Jerry Pournelle, Warren's first statement, "I have written before that the single best framework for explaining the actions of most government agencies is to assume they are run for the benefit of their employees." ought to give Pournelle's Iron Law of Bureacracy credit, " In any bureaucracy, the people devoted to the benefit of the bureaucracy itself always get in control and those dedicated to the goals the bureaucracy is supposed to accomplish have less and less influence, and sometimes are eliminated entirely." See