“US Government, Sorry I’m Not Able to Take Your Call”

When any organization gets too big it becomes hard to manage.

That doesn’t mean it can’t be managed.  Many huge companies are very well run.  Most people would agree that our military sets a high bar for disciplined management.  Operationally, at least.

Why is our federal government such a disorganized, inefficient mess?  What is lacking in the federal government world that other large organizations seem to have in abundance?

We do have organizational charts for our federal government.  There is an interactive one online.  Here’s the short version (click to enlarge):

The full version with all of the departments and all 3 million federal employees would probably cover the floor of Cowboys Stadium in a 12-point font. Of course within a nano-second, it would be obsolete.

Most Americans would expect to see our President in the top box.  After all, he has been known to say “the buck stops here,” even while pointing fingers in every direction and blaming historical figures for the nation’s problems.

The official federal org chart has “the Constitution” in the top box.  It would make more sense to me with “We the People” at the top.   We can hire and fire all those below us on the chart.  We can hold the President, the Congress, and (through appointments) the Supreme Court accountable.  It is up to us, as voters, to make sure that everyone in the federal government is doing what we want them to do.

But we citizens don’t agree on much of anything.  Many of us don’t really care how our government operates.  And even if we did, the organization is so huge that we have to rely on layers and layers of managers who we don’t know and will never see.

Is there anything we can do?  Where do we “citizen managers” start?

I think the first thing we should do is check to see who is at work.  Here is my plan, and I would like you to join me.

Go to www.usa.gov and pick out five federal government employees.  It’s really easy to follow the links through the website to identify agencies and administrators at every level.  You might choose agencies in your hometown, or an office in which you are interested.  Or maybe you will just pick names and phone numbers at random.

At 2:30 on any weekday afternoon, or at 1:00 on a Friday, call the people on your list to see who is at work, and who is taking the rest of the day off.

In the unlikely event the federal employee you are calling actually answers the phone, say “Hi, I’m a taxpayer, and I’m just calling to make sure you are on the job.  Thank you!”

If not, leave a message of your choice, maybe something like:  “Hi, I’m your boss, a taxpayer; it’s 2:30 pm and you should be working.  I am going to follow up with your supervisor.”

Here are my random calls at 2:30 this Tuesday afternoon:

  • Rosanna Goodwill – Acting Director of Civil Rights, Federal Railroad Administration:  recording said she is “away from her desk, leave a message.”
  • Neil Moyer – Acting Director of Office of Policy, Federal Railroad Administration:  recording said he is “not available right now, leave a message.”
  • Don E. Watson – Historically Black College and University Capital Financing Advisory Board:  recording said he is “not available to take your call, leave a message.”  I wanted to ask him why we need his agency.

I left messages for each, expressing my disappointment that nobody in federal government is at work this afternoon.

I will allow that there are times when someone is legitimately not able to answer a call.  But I’ll bet the answer rate is under 10% after 2:00 every afternoon.  I have tried this experiment many times, and have never had my call answered.  Not once.

I don’t know if our government employees care if we catch them slacking.  If nobody ever checks on them, they might start to wonder if it matters whether they are there at all.   Anyway, we are the bosses, and we should make at least the minimum effort to supervise our employees.   Please make some calls!

Tom Balek – Rockin’ On the Right Side

Okay. So no one’s answering.
Well can’t you just let it ring a little longer, longer, longer, ohhhhh!
I’ll just sit tight, through shadows of the night.
And let it ring for evermore.  Yeah, yeah, yeah.

Telephone Line – Electric Light Orchestra