Liberrants

Welcome to Liberrants, a blog dedicated to editorials, discussions, and studies of all things libertarian. Don't let the title mislead you; it's merely my attempt to be creative in describing myself as a "hopeful curmudgeon" who embraces the goal of the free, peaceful, economically vibrant society envisioned by America's founding fathers. Jump in! Contribute! Enjoy!

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Location: Tucson, Arizona, United States

A critically thinking curmudgeon whose goal, in addition to creatively venting about the imperfect world in which we live, is to induce critical thinking in others. The ultimate goal is to help bring about a peaceful world in which we can all live in freedom.

Friday, May 13, 2005

THREAT TO THE CORPORATE DOLE?

Here is something to file under “Hilarious, if I were on the outside looking in.” In fact, it’s hilarious any way you look at it, but also more than a little perverse and sad. It’s a memorandum from the president of the firm that is my employer to the workforce telling us, basically, not to get the jitters over the impending results of the latest Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) hearings just concluded inside Rome-on-the-Potomac. The BRAC committee, part of the Quadrennial Defense Review (QDR) process, is convened for the purpose of reviewing the status of each installation used by the United States Armed Forces, both within the United States and overseas, and deciding, based on factors such as operational relevance, geography, and cost, whether or not to continue maintaining the installation or to close it down. Needless to say, this a highly political and emotional issue for those adherents of the welfare-warfare state, particularly those who depend on these military installations for their livelihoods. My employer, as a cog in the MICC, is one of these adherents. This once mighty firm, founded over three-quarters of a century ago and catapulted to industry leadership for its innovate approach to consulting for a variety of private sector industries, is now reduced to groveling for dole dollars. (The firm’s anniversary celebration last year included publication of a pictorial history of the firm and its operations that highlighted historic accomplishments of lasting value. It is illuminating to note that all of these accomplishments occurred prior to 1960. That year marks the beginning of the period when the firm moved away from consulting to the private sector and began to rely increasingly on government contracts to boost its bottom line). The following memorandum encapsulates, in my opinion, the shallowness, shortsightedness, and desperation of a firm incapable of adapting to changing times and values:

From: [President]
Sent: Friday, May 13, 2005
To: All Users
Subject: Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) Recommendations

Dear Colleagues,

Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld announced his recommendations for the closure and realignment of military bases in the United States today. If approved, the Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) recommendations will move some of our clients to new locations, directly impacting our staff serving at or near those client sites. Given the potential effect on our business and staff, I want to share these thoughts with you.

First, let me remind you that the firm has been affected by previous BRAC rounds, most significantly when [a DoD organization] moved from Arlington to San Diego. We have responded well to the change and new opportunities, and we’ll use lessons learned to guide our actions in this one.

Let me also stress that this announcement is just the first step. The independent BRAC Commission, appointed by the President, will now review the Secretary’s recommendations. That commission can accept these recommendations or change them and issue its own. Revised recommendations are then sent to the President for his review and approval. He sends them on to Congress, who must act on them on an all-or-none basis. Only then do BRAC recommendations become law. This process will not be finalized until November 2005, at the earliest. Any approved closures or realignments must start within two years, with actions complete within six.

BRAC history tells us that the list of proposed closures and realignments will change during the process. Some bases will be added, others removed. [Our firm] has a BRAC Core Team monitoring the process, and the Core Team will ensure that our response is appropriate and optimal.

In the meantime, our policy regarding external support or comment on the BRAC process itself has not changed. The firm cannot and will not advocate for or against any particular recommendation. We will continue to do what we always do: support our clients with world class service.

We can’t eliminate the disruptions that accompany the BRAC process, but we will work to mitigate the impact on our affected offices and staff.

We promise to keep you informed as the BRAC process continues.

Sincerely,

[President]


After reading this for the first time, I found myself asking the following questions:

1) Who do they think they're fooling by saying that they "cannot and will not advocate for or against any recommendation"? They didn't hire a former FBI director and former head of the CIA for their innovative business strategies. Every firm within the MICC hires big-name lobbyists for the express purpose of looking out after their interests inside the corridors of power.

2) If military bases in San Diego, Charleston, San Antonio, or two dozen other metropolitan areas around the country close, why not shift the business focus of the regional offices to the private sector? Surely all of these areas are economically diverse enough that new business opportunities can be cultivated. I can state with absolute certainty that, at least at the worker bee level, this firm has first-rate talent. Why not concentrate on earning honest profits by satisfying the needs of companies and individuals who actually want our services and are willing to pay honest dollars for them? Yes, this may mean reorganization and downsizing to meet the demands of the marketplace and would also require a radical realignment of philosophy to maintain a competitive edge. But shouldn’t everyone in this field anticipate this as a matter of professional course, if not common sense?

The answer to the second question is that this firm wouldn’t last five minutes in a genuinely competitive private sector environment. With very few exceptions, this firm has for the last several decades served clients who demand neither quality work nor accountability. If a project runs over budget (which almost all do, without exception), the firm just demands more money from the government which, through confiscation of almost limitless tax dollars and the ability to extend itself unlimited credit, has merely handed over what monies are asked. Very seldom have product deliverables undergone any sort of rigorous quality control (that just adds costs that are better diverted to the executives’ bonuses), and most of the government clients who have no idea what to do with what they take delivery of. In short, the firm exists in an atmosphere of well-funded chaos.

Needless to say, no private sector client that operates on budget and under strict standards of customer satisfaction will put up with such nonsense. Indeed, on more than one occasion our senior management have made statements to the effect that the firm only seeks government clients because the private sector is too demanding. I think this can be interpreted as saying “We are not about to be held to standards of quality and efficiency that make or break a business and give customers a solid return on their investment. Why do that when we can leech off of the taxpayer instead?” This attitude has become increasingly common as more businesses, particularly those in the technology and information industry, seem to be reinventing themselves to pander to our government masters. Anyone who has worked for more than one of the numerous “beltway bandits” that populate the Washington metropolitan area like maggots on a rotting corpse knows that these companies are virtually indistinguishable from one another; as long as competition for contracts works on a spoils system, depending more on political connections than abilities and proven performance, there is no incentive to innovate, take risks, or stand out. Thus it goes without saying that as long as this situation prevails, it is unlikely that American businesses will maintain their competitive edge relative to the rest of the world.

So in closing, I guess my response to “President” after reading this memorandum would be something like “Get a real job!” Poster child for corporate welfare reform comes readily to mind.

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