Random Jottings and others have linked to a story about Bush administration plans to open up to 850,000 federal jobs to private bids.
In some agencies, this is only half-new. I once worked for a small computer company in Washington, D.C. that had a contract with one of the larger federal agencies. On the computer side, the department had two full staffs, the government employees who were supposed to be doing the work and the private-sector employees (us) who actually did the work. One of the government 'programmers' did literally zero work in the two years I worked
with alongside him. His computer skills were not the kind needed in the department, and there was no way to force him to learn how to program the not-very-exotic system we used (Unix, C, and Informix). In the short term, the only punishment for his utter sloth was that he lost his window cubicle. (Government employees normally had first dibs on the windows.) He used to stop by my cubicle once a day to look out the window for five minutes or so. Since the web hadn't got off the ground yet (this was the mid-1980s), he spent the rest of his day sitting in his windowless cubicle reading newspapers. In the long term, he was shuffled off to a supposedly better but actually worse job across town, but it took two years for his boss to arrange the transfer, that is, to fool someone into taking him. His colleagues did some work, but nothing particularly useful: we used them mostly to test the system we were building, though they were paid as programmers rather than operators.
One thing about government employees is that if you know their pay-grade and years of service, you know exactly how much money they make. My boss had a wallet card that gave the numbers, and made the mistake of sharing them with us one day. It did not help our morale. It turned out that all of the government employees in the department, not just the supposed programmers, made more money than we did, with a single exception: their lowest-paid employee, whose only duty was to sit in the computer room all day making sure no one stole the equipment, made slightly less than our highest-paid employee, the programmer/analyst responsible for designing the whole software system (something over 100,000 lines of code total) and coding some of the more intricate parts. Other than that, there was no overlap.
I wonder how many other government agencies there are in which the private contractors are already doing the work.Posted by Dr. Weevil at November 17, 2002 03:54 PM