When A Federal Agency Goes Bad


FreeMediaOnline.org Logo. FreeMediaOnline.org & Free Media Online Blog  The Federalist Commentary, January 8, 2009, San Francisco — This commentary is by The Federalist, one of our regular contributors with inside knowledge of US government bureaucracy.

When A Federal Agency Goes Bad

by The Federalist

“US international broadcasting is being led by people not interested in its mission or sustaining its programs.”

The Office of Personnel Management (OPM) has released results of its 2008 Human Capital Survey. The numbers are in for the Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG) and they are not good. In fact, they are the worst ever.
We have obtained a copy of the survey results. The negative responses are staggering. We will not recite the numbers here. However, it is more than likely that in a ranking of Federal agencies, the BBG (representing all its entities in the survey) will be at or very near the bottom among Federal agencies of comparable size…a place altogether familiar for the BBG because that is where the agency has resided in several annual surveys running.
Why is this important?
Agency employees have overwhelmingly rejected the strategic plan of the BBG and the agency’s senior managers. They do not identify with the BBG world view and rightly so, because it is grossly flawed. Here’s an example, using figures cited recently in the Washington Post:
Over 2 billion people, many of them women or girls, earn less than $2 per day.
Where do these people – often among the world’s most abused and exploited – fit into the BBG’s all-or-nothing Internet strategy? The answer is: they don’t. The BBG’s strategy should be seen for what it is: an elitist strategy designed to abandon the world’s poorest of the poor. The BBG’s strategy, developed in conjunction with its International Broadcasting Bureau (IBB) staff, is intended to embrace the haves at the expense of the have-nots.
And you wonder why the US is reviled around the world? And you wonder why you see acts of desperate terrorism directed against perceived symbols of this exploitation and abuse?
Standing up to this abuse of power, agency employees have used one of the few means available to them to show the IBB/BBG for what it is. That instrument is the Human Capital Survey.
Here is what you don’t have at this agency: leadership, competence, advocacy and managers who know and identify with the employees doing the work. On those occasions when the agency functions properly, it is in spite of and not because of its senior officials.
Here is what you do have at this agency: sycophancy, ineptitude, incompetence, self-aggrandizement, self-promotion, a culture of cover-ups and deceit, spending millions of dollars on failed projects at the expense of program operations that do work; in other words, intentionally setting up good programs to fail and last but not least, intentionally terminating broadcasts to known audiences in areas on the flashpoint of broader conflicts.
The next administration is faced with a decision what to do regarding US international broadcasting. One thing is for certain: protecting the status quo, business-as-usual in this agency is unacceptable. If the Obama administration intends to make the US international broadcasting effort successful, it must rehabilitate this agency and that means removing people who are responsible for failed decision-making. It must seek out and attract a new, competent leadership to reinvigorate the agency, restore its effectiveness and help lead the effort to recover the prestige and image of the United States.
If this effort isn’t made and the corrosive environment is allowed to remain in place, the only likely outcome is a further erosion of how world’s populations view the United States. No broadcasting means silence. Silence is seen as abandonment. That silence will be filled by the jihadist message and ideology.
“US international broadcasting is being led by people not interested in its mission or sustaining its programs.”
The Federalist 2009