- The Washington Times - Tuesday, October 23, 2001

Normally, federal workers who get detailed to other agencies aren't happy. While it can be a good assignment, it can also mean they aren't wanted (or needed) where they are. Sometimes the detail is a strong hint especially to political appointees to find another place, or line, of work.
But there are times when feds who plan ahead make chesslike moves to get in position to go with a winner.
A number of crack civil servants and political appointees cast their lot with former Energy Secretary Bill Richardson. They happily moved to the department in hopes that he would be Vice President Al Gore's running mate, and they might find themselves with his staff.
But then the Wen Ho Lee spy case and conclusions that lax Energy Department security allowed China to steal nuclear weapons technology came along, essentially sinking Mr. Richardson's chances.
Now there is a bright new star (maybe) on the horizon. It is former Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Ridge, a middle-of-the-road Catholic from a major industrial state. He's got a distinguished war record, looks good and sounds good. Some say he was President Bush's first choice to be vice president.
The new Cabinet-level Department of Homeland Security that Mr. Ridge runs gives him an excellent platform to show what he can do in what many people have predicted is a no-win job.
Many of his staff will be employees detailed (some the best and brightest, some the duds of Washington, some as moles) from other federal agencies.
Some will be feds who believe that if Vice President Richard B. Cheney doesn't seek re-election because of health problems, Mr. Ridge is the front-runner.

Insurance plan
Federal officials say they are still planning to offer government workers, military personnel, family members and retirees group-rate, long-term-care insurance by October 2002.
It's supposed to mean lower premiums for many feds.
But guess what? Key members of Congress including those who wrote the LTC legislation already have theirs. A number say they bought it months, or years ago just "in case."
The "in case" is if it turns out that the federal family policies aren't as good, or as reasonable, as plans already being offered by major insurance companies.

Market timers
Investors (including federal employees with their Thrift Savings Plan) who lost heart in September may have ended up selling low.
After Sept. 11, the market crashed but has bounced back since then. Both the C-fund (which tracks the S&P; 500 index) and the I-fund (the new international stock index fund) have had a good month, so far.
If that trend holds, feds who bailed out of either fund will have lost the benefit of the October bounce, and it will cost them more to come back into the funds if they ever decide to return.


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