by G. Florence Scott
Recently an article by Stephen Barr, Washington Post (“Study Reveals a Training Gap,” Tuesday March 27, 2007), contended that there is a “training gap” and that Federal employees need and want more training, but are not being given the opportunity to go to classes. It seemed to present a simple view which appears to focus on the symptom, rather than the root of the problem.

Most sensible people would see the value of training, particularly ongoing career long training which allows a person to renew and become increasing proficient in doing their job. There are perhaps, darker forces at work here, which lie below the trend toward reducing training for employees in some Federal Agencies. It has been the observation of this writer that there is much more to the “training gap” than benign negligence or budget constraints. Early in his career one Senior Security Specialist, (who worked in the Department of Defense for nearly 20 years, policing defense contractors in the area of security practices), and his colleagues had ready access to the many courses of study that would make them increasingly competent and knowledgeable in the areas they would be working.

That began to change about six years ago, as there began to be more political change of attitude and increased micromanagement of federal employees by those political forces. This appeared to be especially true in agencies charged with oversight of defense contractors. This translated to first proposing having industry police itself, with a reduction in government oversight, and then reducing the number of Security Specialists, increasing intensely their workloads, and a cutting back of monies and opportunities for employees for training.

At about that time, many federal employees were encouraged to take part in work groups, particularly in civilian defense agencies, to contribute to a “reinvention” of government. Many willingly did this hoping to help improve matters. The “reinvention of government” parade marched on and rather than a clarifying and improving of policy and management, there appeared to be increasing numbers of improper relationships and connections growing between some of those in government, particularly mid and upper managers and the defense contractors. Along with this trend, also appeared to be an increase in movement of employees from government to contractors and contractors to government, referred to by many as a “revolving door.”

Conditions worsened as some federal Defense Department agency managers chastened employees who were not “friendly” enough to defense contractors or who were not willing to overlook things that needed to be addressed and corrected. For instance, after a particularly egregious investigation during which the Senior Security Specialist’s work had uncovered documented fraud and criminal activity by a particular defense contractor, the Security Specialist found that he was targeted for very personal attacks because of standing up and faithfully fulfilling his agency’s stated mission.

Eventually, due to the extreme harassment and efforts by his supervisors, in the multiple layers above him, to drive him out or do him in, (retaliation for not agreeing to remove information in his report which would make it prosecutable, and refusing to commit fraud as he was ordered by upper management in his agency to do), he moved on to another job. Those same supervisors also drove out the only other Senior Security Specialist as well, to an early retirement. Then they took the next most experienced layer of Security Specialists and drove them out as well, as they had benefited from the training and expertise of the Senior Specialists, seemingly because they knew too much and continued to try to hold the defense contractors accountable.

New, junior employees were hired when the agency managers could not postpone doing so any longer. The new employees have gotten little of the high quality professional training they need in order to be effective in policing and managing the security concerns, (of which there are many), regarding defense contracts and defense contractors for which they technically have oversight responsibility. And please keep in mind they do not locally have any experienced Senior Security Specialists to advise, assist and train them at this point, so they are having to rely more on the very people they are supposed to be policing for help in grasping what is going on; read that the hens asking the fox for help. Furthermore, one of the mid-managers has been documented as having visited the local office and taken the newer employees aside and in an effort to intimidate and control them, boasted that he personally “got rid of” the two Senior Security Specialists, intimating that they too would be driven out and their careers ruined if they dared to be too diligent in doing their jobs.

Effectively, the corruption between at least this one defense contractor and certain supervisors in at least one government agency took a giant leap forward as they made a purposeful decision after forcing out anyone with history and corporate memory to leave and then to withhold from future employees critical education and training, as a way of minimizing their effectiveness in policing defense contractors. This scheme, first of all destines employees to a frustrating and continuing lack of knowledge and experience because of the lack of training and therefore a lack of needed competence. The expertise that under previously normal required training schedules for employees, that would have grown and served our government and citizens well, was in short order eliminated, effectively emasculating the employee’s ability to do their jobs.

In the current climate of government and defense contractor corruption and graft, it appears that this scenario may not be singular, and may be more widespread than American citizens would want to believe. The Government and other pertinent organizations should be making every effort to bring these matters to light and have them responsibly confronted and resolved. American citizens deserve no less.