- Posted October 10, 2013 by
Falls Church, Virginia
This iReport is part of an assignment:
Shutdown over: What next?
The "Lazy" Federal Worker: Working for Free
I was tempted to play sick. After all, would you work for free? I like how Congress can simply declare how my work is essential and so, with no guarantee of back pay, I had to come back to work because some Congressional lackey on the staff of somebody who got us into this mess requested some information related to my expertise. Maybe if all the emergency workers went on strike, Congress would get its act together.
Members of Congress, while in committee, privately tell us the great work we are doing and then turn to the microphones and rail against us. They make comparisons, calling some of us essential and others non-essential. I do not like this phrasing. A better one is emergency and non-emergency. Because frankly, there is a lot of critical work NOT getting done. However, because it is not as visible to the public as the closing of national parks, not much attention is being given to these other tasks. This is like providing a fresh coat of paint and some new doors to a building with a rotting foundation. Critical, long term research is not being done. NASA has almost no workers working and yet the Space Program is one of the Nation's biggest drivers of innovation. Thanks to the Space Program, we have computers, microwave ovens, fireproof suits, and a whole host of things we take for granted today. Other important research projects at the National Institute of Health are on hold. This is research that could help cure cancer, diabetes, and other health epidemics.
Director of National Intelligence General Clapper testified before Congress last week. He suggested that the furlough might encourage people to defect to other countries. While this makes me sick, I have to acknowledge the possibility. People who are not paid might do desperate things. We have had people commit espionage before, such as Alderich Ames, Robert Hansen, and most recently, Edward Snowden. Espionage is a serious concern. Terrorists can knock down a building, but foreign spies stealing our technology, security information, and intellectual property do far more damage to our country. But again, people doing those jobs are "non-emergency" because our emergency staff is too busy chasing every person with an AK-47 without triaging the important groups from the minor groups. Don't get me wrong. People in our government hunting terrorists are doing important work, but we cannot be so focused on the terrorist threat while ignoring longer term threats.
My office, by the way, has been instructed to only work on "emergency tasks," meaning we cannot work on long term, strategic projects. That, folks, is a fundamental problem. You have to have a long term, strategic picture. Otherwise, you find yourself running from fire to fire without taking the time to decide whether or not it makes sense.
So while this shutdown continues, remember, sometimes the biggest threats are not the things we can see. The biggest threats to this country are not the terrorist bogey man that politicians have used to push their agendas. It is the theft of our secrets and intellectual property. We also hurt our long term growth with the cuts in our scientific research. Without a long term vision, our country is destined to wobble along, and ultimately, fall behind, especially when so many other emerging countries are investing in their own research and development.
Hope the shutdown ends soon.
(tags: federal, worker, lazy, snowden, espionage, terrorist, research, intellectual property)