Fresh off the FEMA performance, Bush team takes on Departments of Homeland Security and Defense

Monday, January 30, 2006 at 08:56 AM

For an administration with a markedly poor record in reforming government agencies, not to mention Medicare prescription drug benefits, the Bush administration remains committed to that "reform" effort.  So, amid the news from UPI that FEMA couldn't even be bothered to accept help from a fellow fed agency, Interior, in its horrid response to Hurrican Katrina, we now have attempts to reform the pay system at DoD, the Homeland Security Department's personnel rules, and the mail delivery system at DoD, all chronicled at Federal Times.

The mail delivery system story involves the administration's effort to privatize handling of DoD mail, which is a multi-billion dollar operation.  The story notes that "Senior Pentagon leaders appear to favor outsourcing the work, which is performed by 352 civilian employees, 4,470 military personnel and 363 contractors who now handle the military's mail."  The investigation began at the request of Rumsfeld, who in 2004 asked Defense Business Board to study the idea.

The PR push for privatization emphasizes the usual rationales for privatizing (lower cost, allegedly superior service) with, in this case, the alleged added benefits of "solving worsening manpower problems in military postal units" while helping "build better morale among troops and families."  In this case, the claims of lower cost could be viewed as laughable if only because the current system's "true total cost is unknown because government auditors cannot calculate it."

The report on Homeland Security personnel rules, which several unions allege will alter how it bargains with unions, resolves labor disputes and disciplines workers, notes that the new rules were invalidated by a federal Disctrict Court back in August, 2005, but the case was appealed. The appeal proceeding is now coming to a head.

The National Treasury Employees Union President said "DHS' leadership is intent on treating its employees as adversaries."  [Of course; they're a "labor cost" considered by the current crop of Republican CEOs in disguise as the lowest thing on the face of the good, management-favoring Earth].

Finally, the report on DoD's new pay system would be funny if it wasn't indicative of something so tragic and familiar: the inability of these people to design any plan or program that is simply, efficient, and workable.  An odd weakness for people who so often cite the "efficiency" of the private sector as a reason to kill all public programs.

The very first sentence of the report says it all: "Amid complaints its new performance-based pay system for civilian employees is too complex and difficult to understand, the Defense Department has sidelined plans for next month's launch and drastically downsized the number of employees moving to the new system."

If only they'd had the foresight to do the same with the Medicare drug bill, they wouldn't have traumatized millions of elderly, ill citizens who woke up this month to the horrible realization that the Republican-designed plan (with little to no input from those horrible Democrats; see the earlier WTW report), was a nightmare of complexity with the far too frequent result that their drug needs were no longer covered by the new "benefit."