- The Washington Times - Tuesday, December 11, 2001

Whether by design or dumb luck, the Bush administration seems to have gotten off to a good start with most of the federal bureaucracy. The September 11 tragedy may have saved political appointees from misguided or mean-spirited attempts to hamstring a president who lost the popular vote.
Consider the government before and after September 11.
Before the attacks, administration officials planned to chop 40,000 federal managers and continue downsizing federal agencies (both programs that peaked during the Clinton years). Plans for a major shake-up of the defense establishment (which had been folded, stapled and fluff dried by the Clinton administration) were in the works.
Top officials in several federal agencies were acting like old-time schoolmarms, putting the emphasis on tidy desks and well-dressed employees. Many of the actions even if justified created the equivalent of a hostile workplace for feds who have been guinea pigs for various political lifestyles.
The attacks on Washington and New York came one day after the Defense Department announced plans for an ongoing shake-up. Feds moved to the front line, whether they worked at the Pentagon or the Brentwood post office. New political appointees and longtime bureaucrats learned to work together and see how the other half performs during an ongoing crisis. Priorities changed overnight.
An Office of Personnel Management employee said he felt like he was working under pressures not felt since Pearl Harbor or the Cuban missile crises.
The new Washington attitude may save political appointees from the anti-bureaucrat paranoia that hamstrung some Reagan appointees, and save feds from the anything-for-votes social-engineering practices by many Clinton appointees.
Like the spring weather Washington enjoyed last week, the "Dunkirk Spirit" won't last for long. But feds who deserved a break and political appointees who needed one should make the most of it.

Time for perks
The bipartisan spirit in Congress has been a boon to long-shot legislative proposals for feds.
Frequent fliers: Insiders say that one way or another Congress will allow official government travelers to keep frequent-flier miles for their own personal use.
That idea has been around for years but it didn't take off until the House approved the perk for its own staff, and the business-oriented White House team said it would be a no-cost way to boost morale and bring federal agency practices into the 20th, if not the 21 century.
Windfall/offset: The two laws that eat or take a big bite out of retirement checks of federal, state and local employees (including schoolteachers) could be modified this year. Windfall can reduce a civil servant's Social Security as much as $270 per month while offset can eliminate the spousal-survivor benefit of a retired fed. Opponents have tried to get them modified since the 1980s without success. Now there is a chance one or both could be stuffed inside an unrelated and/or must-have legislative package and become law.

Security screeners
If you want one of the new security-screener jobs you need a good record, faith and patience.
Faith because the government still doesn't know how much the screeners will be paid (I guessed the GS-7 civil service level, paying $30,000 to $38,000 per year), what kind of federal perks they will be entitled to (like health, life and long-term-care insurance) and when hiring will begin.
The government has set up an information hot line on the job, but while it may be busy it is short on information. If you want to be considered for one of the jobs send your name and e-mail address to: [email protected] or call 202/366-9392 or 800/525-2878.
Your country needs you, but it apparently isn't in much of a hurry, so don't quit your daytime job just yet.

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