Monday, April 6, 2020

Reforming the Federal Bureaucracy

Heck, even I knew COVID-19 cases were NOT supposed to be put on the ship.
Headline from "The Daily Mail."
Long-time readers may be tired of reading my comments about the federal bureaucracy in general -- and the CDC in particular -- over the eleven years of this blog. Still, because the problem worsens by the day, I'm going write about this again. Think about it: a just a month ago, the CDC was telling us not to take the common-sense protective measure of wearing masks. Now, they have completely reversed themselves. The reversal wasn't based on some comprehensive study, it was just bureaucrats being bureaucrats. This must stop.
The coronavirus crisis has put the problem in stark relief. As soon as the immediate crisis has passed, President Trump must address this vital issue. Our nation's future is imperiled by the federal bureaucracy. My suggestions:
  1. Eliminate civil service. Federal workers should have no more and no less protection than workers in the private sector. Even the spoils system would be better than what we have now; at least, there would be some measure of accountability.
  2. Public service unions should be outlawed. I am proud to be a union member and it is important that private sector workers have the option of union representation. But, unions are completely inappropriate in the public sector. 
  3. Drastically shrink the bureaucracy. The people remaining should be retained on merit, not seniority. The absurdities that exist in civil service (e.g., did you know the one criterion that cannot be used in promoting National Weather Service forecasters is the accuracy of his/her forecasts?!) need to be eliminated. 
  4. Disperse the federal government (e.g., the slimmed-down Department of Agriculture should be in Wichita, Transportation in Chicago, etc.). Since I'm written on that topic so many other times, I'll let you read my thoughts here, among other places on the blog. [Addition: A small group of Dept. of Interior employees, charged with regulating lands in the West, are fighting to remain in D.C. ]
If you are not convinced the dysfunction in the federal government isn't seriously hurting the nation, please allow me to quote from articles from publications that are hardly conservative in their politics:

Chron.com Saturday:

In their private communications, scientists at academic, hospital and public health labs - one layer removed from federal agency operations - expressed dismay at the failure to move more quickly and frustration at bureaucratic demands that delayed their attempts to develop alternatives to the CDC [unusable] test.
"We have the skills and resources as a community but we are collectively paralyzed by a bloated bureaucratic/administrative process," Marc Couturier, medical director at academic laboratory ARUP in Utah, wrote to other microbiologists on Feb. 27 after weeks of mounting frustration.
Washington Post Saturday:

The president's behavior and combative statements were merely a visible layer on top of deeper levels of dysfunction. 

The most consequential failure involved a breakdown in efforts to develop a diagnostic test that could be mass produced and distributed across the United States, enabling agencies to map early outbreaks of the disease, and impose quarantine measure [sic] to contain them. At one point, a Food and Drug Administration official tore into lab officials at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, telling them their lapses in protocol, including concerns that the lab did not meet the criteria for sterile conditions were so serious that the FDA would "shut you down" if the CDC were a commercial, rather than government, entity. 

Why is the CDC so dysfunctional in this crisis? Because for at least the last decade it was worried about vaping, tornado warnings, and other irrelevancies rather than diseases -- even though disease prevention is its reason for existence. The FDA is nearly as bad. There is much more on this subject, here.

To give another example, the National Weather Service is suffering from tornado warnings and forecasts that have become less accurate over the last decade. Instead of fixing the problem, keeping in mind forecasts of extreme weather is its primary reason for existence, the NWS has now said its primary focus is on "Impact-Based Decision Support Services" which is -- in some cases -- corporate welfare. They send their valuable meteorologists to NASCAR tracks, football games and other for-profit and other enterprises when they should be focused on providing outstanding services to the public.

The Air Force has a new Boeing-produced customized tanker, the KC-46 that leaks fuel and was delivered with refuse in its tanks. The plane is grounded, likely for two years. The $44 billion program could have been done faster and for a fraction of the cost by purchasing off-the-shelf Boeing KC-10's. Of course, there are fewer opportunities for graft when off-the-shelf equipment is purchased.

These are just a few of the many, many, examples of our dysfunctional federal government. Even though he will face fierce opposition (all of these bureaucracies have vocal constituencies), this, along with challenging China, are the two most important issues facing President Trump in his possible second term. 

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