Government Employees—High Quality?
Our nation is blessed with many great citizens, in the past and in the present. So many naysayers have lamented the decline in quality of our youth, with statistics highlighting the obesity, lethargy, softness, and other traits preventing our youth from being real contributors to anything but themselves throughout their lifetimes.
The receivers, rightly so, of almost all our adulation are the men and women in uniform that form the first level of defense against the beasts comprising our “enemies.” In spite of the social statistics, our youth have filled the ranks of our services on a volunteer basis, and have distinguished themselves over and over in harsh, dangerous conditions.
Are these the only heroes of today? In the military, we refer to the “silent warriors”, who we usually associate with our Special Forces, CIA, and other great patriots who cannot, due to security reasons, receive the adulation they deserve for their wonderful service to our country. But even the members of these groups, when it is made known the organizations to which they belong, receive adulation as great if not greater than our other uniformed service members.
But are our Special Forces and CIA patriots our only unsung heroes? During my career, I have had the benefit of serving with another huge group of heroes. Amazingly, this same group is most often the brunt of jokes by the rest of our citizens for being the epitome of what is wrong with our country. Instead of receiving the adulation of their fellow citizens, they must endure ridicule, and at times, hatred. No one appears to rise to their defense, proclaiming the repetitive great deeds which they perform in service to our country.
And who is this much maligned group of citizens? Government employees!
It was one of my greatest honors to lead government engineers and scientists in the development of lethal technologies to enable our young, uniformed members with the latest technology possible. To say our uniformed members deserve the latest and greatest technology so that they will have more significant overmatches with our enemies is an understatement. But who is it that provides this overmatch? The unsung heroes of our government service populating the many science laboratories in our defense department were equal in dedication to the many service members of my past experience. The technological advancements created and provided by our scientists, sometimes with inadequate resources, proved to me the extreme dedication of this community to our military and country.
Since leaving government service, I have had the chance to teach acquisition classes across our government agencies. Once again, I have found almost unanimous dedication and hard working government employees, all proving a deep, intelligent desire to make a contribution to our country. Rarely have I found the stereotypical government employee often ridiculed by our general public.
Worse, I have witnessed our citizenry complain and cite for incompetence our government employees. Then, when these same citizens were faced with a fraction of the challenges faced by our government employees, I have found a huge difference in capability and dedication. The volume of errors, rework required, and inability to solve challenges encountered by our non-government workforce in their areas of expertise prove to me over and over the huge diminished capabilities of the non-government workforce as compared to their government worker counterparts.
The academic classes required for government employees within the acquisition workforce are challenging for anyone. Yet the government students work tirelessly, even in their personal time, to try to master the concepts and techniques required for their career designations. Some of these classes teach government employees how to analyze offers, also called proposals, submitted by industry to the government for evaluation. The techniques required for proposal analysis employ various levels of statistical techniques for use in arriving at what the government should actually pay for goods and services purchased from the commercial sector in service to our country. Students dedicate themselves to trying to master these challenging techniques, allowing for a government position to be developed that more closely approximates the actual costs required to produce the goods and services for our collective benefit. Rarely noticed career fields like acquisition professionals have a chance every day to save taxpayers large sums of money.
Another wonderful aspect to witness is seeing our government employees working together to learn and master the required techniques. No matter the age, race, or other demographic stereotype, the students melt together and work hard to use the talents of all to master the concepts and techniques. To watch the melting process is a wonderful opportunity, causing one to appreciate just how far our country has advanced in appreciating all members of our national team.
It is disappointing to hear non-government people condemn government employees. Too bad these folks are not able to be subjected to the same rigors and challenges so that a fair, true comparison of capabilities can be made. Perhaps if a true, “wear my shoes”, comparison could be made, we would find a resurgence of pride in what it means to be a government employee, a pride reinforced by a nongovernment citizenry’s outward expression of respect and thanks for a job well done.
Does this mean that there are no bad performers in government service? Of course not. Does this mean that the vast majority of our government employees are unsung heroes trying to accomplish their missions while being maligned by their non-governmental citizenry? Yes it does! At least from one present day citizen, you within our government have my deep thanks and appreciation for all that you do, much of which will never be recognized by the rest of us. I salute yet another group of our “silent service” patriots!
Dr. Michael Padgett is a retired Colonel, U.S. Army who spent much of his career associated with Federal Government employee work forces. He is also a designated Uniformed Scientist, a specialty that no longer exists within the Army. His active duty service was over 28 years, followed by 2 1/2 years as a government civilian. Padgett runs his own consulting business now and resides in the backwoods of Sylva, NC.
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