Sunday, November 18, 2012

pampered officials

The journalistic carrion birds are now picking over General Petraeus and General Allen and suggesting that senior officers work in a bubble of sycophants and live in a world of billionaire-style perks. Writers in the Washington Post even quote the former Secretary of Defense Bob Gates complaining about the personal support provided to his neighbor, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff:
“I was often jealous because he had four enlisted people helping him all the time,” Gates said in response to a question after a speech Thursday. He wryly complained to his wife that [Admiral] “Mullen’s got guys over there who are fixing meals for him, and I’m shoving something into the microwave. And I’m his boss.”
I know all the justifications. Busy officials shouldn't have to iron their own shirts. Those overseeing national security need to be protected at all times from bad guys.

And yet... State Department officials usually have to fly commercial to do their vital business. CIA analysts are encouraged to disagree with their superiors if they believe the facts warrant it. It's also troubling that military officers can retire after 20 years, take another government job at full salary and full pension, and have the most socialized medicine system in the world for life, while the rest of us hope we don't lose our jobs and with it our health care, much less our pensions.

A partial remedy is for those officers, and senior civilians as well, to have to experience some of the daily facts of life their subordinates endure. Make them commute by public transit one day a month. Make them go through a TSA inspection every tenth flight. Make them do their own grocery shopping once in a while. Make them handle their own phone calls and office equipment for just one hour a week.  You get the idea.

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