Federal Workers Resent Surge in Hiring Vets

 

You might have noticed that I’m not Obama’s biggest fan. But grudgingly I must admit that there are one or two things he has gotten right.

Five years ago, the administration decided to help veterans find work after returning from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Vets have received preferential hiring for government jobs going back to WWII, but Obama further sweetened the formula in their favor. Last year, nearly half of all full-time hires were ex-military; now vets make up a full third of the federal workforce.

Great news, eh? Well, not for everyone. According to the Washington Post, non-military government workers resent this preferential treatment:

With veterans moving to the head of the hiring queue in the biggest numbers in a generation, there’s growing bitterness on both sides, according to dozens of interviews with federal employees.

Those who did not serve in the military bristle at times at the preferential hiring of veterans and accuse them of a blind deference to authority. The veterans chafe at what they say is a condescending view of their skills and experience and accuse many non-veterans of lacking a work ethic and sense of mission.

But what really gets under the skin of lifetime bureaucrats might be political:

Their colleagues in the civil service say that while veterans work hard, they rarely display independent thinking.

“You’re getting a very conservative worker that’s very narrow-minded,” said Bob O’Brien, a technology specialist for the Office of Personnel Management. About 90 of the 100 computer experts in his office in suburban Maryland are veterans, he said.

Icky. This “narrow-minded” conservative mindset is having a horrible side effect on governmental operations: Things are getting done.

In her first week on the job as a management analyst in HUD’s human resources office, Gwen Colvin, a former master sergeant in the Air Force, started to move the boxes she had brought with her so she could unpack them and hang her military commendations and other memorabilia on her office wall.

Her colleagues told her to wait for the maintenance staff to do those things because that was the protocol. Colvin said she was dumbfounded. In her view, she needed something done, so she did what she did in the military: She got it done.

On second thought, maybe a new breed of enthusiastic, hard-working federal bureaucrats isn’t such a great idea. The more time civil service types nap at the desk, download smut, and feign illness, the less time they have to complicate my life. Bringing on millions of can-do veterans could be the worst blow to limited government in a generation.

I’ve changed my mind. Obama messed this up too.

There are 19 comments.

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  1. Misthiocracy Member
    Misthiocracy
    @Misthiocracy

    Like.

    • #1
  2. WI Con Member
    WI Con
    @WICon

    Nice to have some good news.

    If Rick Perry has trouble remembering what he’d like to cut this time, he can use “the other half” of the bureaucracy.

    • #2
  3. PsychLynne Inactive
    PsychLynne
    @PsychLynne

    I was reading this story during lunch and almost choked on it.  I’ve only been in the government for 3 1/2 years, and my colleagues are supposed to be advancing science, yet the biggest barrier is a lack of independent thinking, initiative to start things.  Incrementalism is pervasive.

    People who think for themselves and do things for themselves.  Bring ’em on!

    • #3
  4. iWc Coolidge
    iWc
    @iWe

    The second thought is right. Competent government is even worse for liberty than incompetent government.

    The ONLY place I want the federal government capable and competent is in the projection of force outside of our borders, and the provision of efficient and transparently fair justice within them.

    • #4
  5. EJHill Podcaster
    EJHill
    @EJHill

     “You’re getting a very conservative worker that’s very narrow-minded,” said Bob O’Brien, a technology specialist for the Office of Personnel Management.

    Nothing could be further from the truth. The American soldier is unique because of his ability to adapt, improvise and overcome. Blind allegiance to top-down command structure was a legendary flaw of the German army in WWII. And maybe it plagues the officer corps in today’s more politically correct and (trigger alert!) feminized military. But the rank and file?

    I think the real problem is that these men and women are probably more conservative and Republican than the average government worker and they see that as an infiltration. My God, if there’s a GOP administration in the future these new guys may not participate in actively sabotaging it!

    • #5
  6. user_22932 Member
    user_22932
    @PaulDeRocco

    I wonder if Obama considered the risk that he’d be populating the bureaucracy with people somewhat less predisposed to the sort of progressive activism that he expects. (See: Lois Lerner.) Or do the bottom line numbers mask the fact that preference is being given to, say, female, minority or gay veterans?

    • #6
  7. The Lost Dutchman Member
    The Lost Dutchman
    @TheLostDutchman

    “You’re getting a very conservative worker that’s very narrow-minded,” said Bob O’Brien, a technology specialist for the Office of Personnel Management. About 90 of the 100 computer experts in his office in suburban Maryland are veterans, he said.

    Where else but the federal civil service could you be quoted under your own name in a major newspaper disparaging 90% of your co-workers, and not expect any consequences?  In my previous job, I worked in a small office with three other people, all of whom were Catholic.  If I had felt the need to vent about how awful Catholics in the workforce were to the local paper, I would’ve at least made sure to do it anonymously.

    • #7
  8. Kim K. Inactive
    Kim K.
    @KimK

    I think it depends on how preferential the treatment is that they get. I have a family member who is closely involved with this exact hiring situation. If two people are equally qualified and the vet gets the nod, who would protest? But if the vet is only 90% as qualified? How about 80%? What if the vet is a “wounded warrior”? How much of an extra bump does that get him/her? Any time you start giving preferential treatment to someone in hiring based on something other than their actual job skills, you are going to run into some difficult situations.

    • #8
  9. genferei Member
    genferei
    @genferei

    Now we can’t cut the bureaucracy because it’ll be betraying our veterans.

    • #9
  10. user_604199 Member
    user_604199
    @SwanningintheBeltway

    I definitely take your point, however in practice there are regular occurrences of veterans receiving jobs for which they are not qualified for due to being in a protected class.  Often over the heads of people who are far better qualified.  The good intention has begun to smack of other Federal programs from the past…

    • #10
  11. PsychLynne Inactive
    PsychLynne
    @PsychLynne

    Tangential story:  (just like a live conversation)

    Swanning in the Beltway:I definitely take your point, however in practice there are regular occurrences of veterans receiving jobs for which they are not qualified for due to being in a protected class.

    When I was training, I did my my pre-doctoral internship at a VA hospital.  As part of neuropsych, we did several human brain dissections.  Every one we did was on vets.  On the the day of the first one, we had read the history, I only remember that he was fairly young, died unexpectedly and after his service had become a post man.

    There were 3 of us in the room staring at what appeared to be a really small brain…”Maybe it’s that we’re in a big room” “Is that a kids brain?”   …then my supervisor walked in.  He picked up the brain, looked at it and said “I assume you’ve all read the history and now have evidence of what is wrong with the Post Office.”

    • #11
  12. The King Prawn Inactive
    The King Prawn
    @TheKingPrawn

    A very good friend of mine is one of the few civil servants I know who is not a veteran. When he was going through his orientation he relayed to me the “civil service motto” passed on to him: never sweat at work; never [expletive] (poop) at home. Yes, that mindset really does exist, even in DoD federal jobs.

    One sentence from the story really nails my experience in federal employment, “The veterans chafe at what they say is a condescending view of their skills and experience and accuse many non-veterans of lacking a work ethic and sense of mission.” Mission focus is something my fellow vets and I still carry even decades after active service. We look for ways to get things done rather than looking for reasons we can’t accomplish the task. Yes, we complain a lot, but we do it on the way to the job. A bitching sailor is a happy sailor, and I’m downright giddy.

    Another divide not mentioned in the piece is between federal workers (in my area mostly vets) and contract workers. The sailors I work with always prefer gov workers to Lockheed-Martin because we work to task accomplishment, not to time consumption.

    Just last week I went on a small job to move a desk for our new HR representative. There were 4 of us (because everyone needs something to do, I guess.) All four of us are vets, but two of the guys are previous Lockheed employees. The two of us who went from the Navy to civil service carried the desk and rearranged the whole office the way the ladies asked while the two previous Lockheed employees watched and stated over and over that rearranging the office wasn’t part of the assigned task.

    • #12
  13. Son of Spengler Contributor
    Son of Spengler
    @SonofSpengler

    genferei:Now we can’t cut the bureaucracy because it’ll be betraying our veterans.

    My reaction exactly. I was wondering cynically if the only reason Obama is now favoring veterans is so that a larger government bureaucracy just becomes more difficult to dismantle in the future.

    • #13
  14. Guruforhire Member
    Guruforhire
    @Guruforhire

    I have been a contractor once, and let me tell you the view is the same looking the other way.  The blue badgers were some of the laziest, most bureaucratic, non-working people I had ever met, to a certain extent even the air force folks.

    I have also worked with both green and blue badgers enough to know that often times, well intentioned hardworking people get employed who cannot keep up with the work or technology probably because of security clearances and prior service.  This is also not universal.

    Trying to make broad conclusions based upon prior prejudices is not fruitful.

    • #14
  15. Fricosis Guy Listener
    Fricosis Guy
    @FricosisGuy

    The King Prawn:A very good friend of mine is one of the few civil servants I know who is not a veteran. When he was going through his orientation he relayed to me the “civil service motto” passed on to him: never sweat at work; never [expletive] (poop) at home. Yes, that mindset really does exist, even in DoD federal jobs.

    Another divide not mentioned in the piece is between federal workers (in my area mostly vets) and contract workers. The sailors I work with always prefer gov workers to Lockheed-Martin because we work to task accomplishment, not to time consumption.

    The move to outsource core government services was a most devious way to create a new layer of rent-seeking, and thereby to create a new cadre of concentrated special interests. I’ve ranted many times about the corruption of faith-based charities. Now defense contractors don’t build as much any more, but they sure provide a lot of “services”.

    • #15
  16. C. U. Douglas Thatcher
    C. U. Douglas
    @CUDouglas

    Swanning in the Beltway:I definitely take your point, however in practice there are regular occurrences of veterans receiving jobs for which they are not qualified for due to being in a protected class. Often over the heads of people who are far better qualified. The good intention has begun to smack of other Federal programs from the past…

    That was similar to my line of thinking.

    Or rather, “Wait, now Progressives are -against- preferential hiring for certain groups?”

    • #16
  17. user_1065645 Contributor
    user_1065645
    @DaveSussman
    • #17
  18. user_1065645 Contributor
    user_1065645
    @DaveSussman

    Jon Gabriel, Ed.: Icky. This “narrow-minded” conservative mindset is having a horrible side effect on governmental operations: Things are getting done.

    Reminds me of Evan Sayet: How Liberals Reach the Tops of Their Professions

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=peRUTroIuNs

    • #18
  19. Jon Gabriel, Ed. Admin
    Jon Gabriel, Ed.
    @jon

    Guruforhire: I have also worked with both green and blue badgers enough to know that often times, well intentioned hardworking people get employed who cannot keep up with the work or technology probably because of security clearances and prior service. This is also not universal.

    Other than my time in the Navy, the only government gig was with a city government with a very conservative constituency. Even there you had a large group of clockwatchers, but there were several dedicated and excellent employees doing their best.

    • #19

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