ATI has many customers who work for the government in defense or aerospace. We thought that this article was interesting and timely about working with agencies that are subject to sequester.
Doing Business with DoD and All of Fed Government- Post-Sequestration
July 3, 2013 By ChrisScott
Do you interact with government professionals in DoD or elsewhere in the federal government? This post may give you some important insights that may help.
Next time you make an appointment to meet with your DoD counterpart, you will most likely notice some very unpleasant changes. As you are well aware, sequestration has forced DoD to make some arbitrary cuts in ways that make no contribution towards meeting DoD goals and missions. By design, the sequestration is devoid of logic and planning, and it is breeding a sense of helplessness into an organization that prides itself on mission accomplishment.
First off: the furloughs themselves. Civil service employees in DoD are mandated to take 11 unpaid days off between now and 1 October, the end of the Fiscal Year. I have observed very few exemptions to the mandate. It appears that unless you are directly working in a combat zone, you will have to comply.
In the Navy, even the working capital employees of SPAWAR are required to furlough. Since these working capital employees are paid directly by the funds received for the projects they are working on, not paying them for these days does nothing to save USN money, and makes the programs at risk for having unobligated funds at the end of the year.
I have talked to numerous civil servants who are suffering the effects of this unanticipated 20% pay cut. You should know that when they do the math, they do NOT call it a 20% pay cut, but more than that. They have fixed expenses for their health care, insurance, retirement, etc. When the resulting 20% comes off the remainder, it is felt as more than 20% of the whole.
Secondly: the psychological effect. I have worked in DoD for many years, and I usually encounter the best and the brightest. These folks come to work with only one thing on their mind: doing the BEST job they can. They have always known that they have traded a lower income for a sense of National pride and a direct impact on the US defense mission.
Now they are being directed to work less hours and chastised that they must NOT work the full 40 hours. Their normal inclination is to suck it up and accomplish their job anyways. In fact, many of these employees are being told that there must be some pain to this policy. Some things must fall apart. For a force that prides itself on getting things done, this is having a very debilitating psychological impact.
As these employees sit back and watch their work go undone, it is only natural that they feel a sense of shame and frustration. They are being asked to do less. They are being told that their work is not important. They are being told that completing their work successfully is no longer a requirement.
I have always known that the most motivated employees are those that clearly understand their mission and have the tools and authorities to accomplish the goals. No amount of bonuses, time off, promotions, etc. can compete with the sense of well being achieved by doing a hard job well.
How this will unfold for next year is still unknown. A few organizations have obtained approval for reduction in forces (RIF). (Commander Naval Installations just announced that 745 civilian positions will be eliminated by 2014 ). It is clearly more effective to trim forces by 20%, vice rendering 100% of the forces 80% (or less) effective through furloughs.
Meanwhile, as you try to line up your meetings with DoD, some things you should know. Most commands are furloughing on Fridays. Some are bundling their Fridays with a Monday, to give them four-day weekends. During their furlough days, they are not reading/answering any emails or taking any phone calls. When they return, their emails and voice mails are backed up. If you time your request wrong, you will get lost in the backlog.
Things that were always hard are now a lot harder. DoD has not standardized their visitor requirements across the department. We all know that “boutique” solutions exist from organization to organization, usually a combination of Visitor Requests, JPAS submissions, etc. Making sure that all these t’s are crossed and i’s are dotted usually requires someone from within to connect the dots. On my recent swing through the PACOM AOR, I experienced two such disconnects. I usually bat 100%.
Finally, the meeting itself is subject to coordination across the participant organizations to find a time/date where all players are at work. With all the catching up that they are doing from their days off, and with the overwhelming sense of failure that comes from not completing your work, it’s increasingly difficult to line up productive sessions. I have found that one-on-one meetings are much more likely to be successful.
In conclusion, you will need to pay special attention to the above as you work with DoD this year. No matter how frustrated you are at the results, please remember to give a few words of encouragement. We are all in this together, whether we like it or not.