Saturday, November 17, 2007

Hitting a Record, and Setting it Straight

Yesterday was the day my blog recorded the largest number of hits in a single day so far: 125, according to MyBlogLog. Incredibly, 100 of those 125 were to the same post: Ewwwww...a Contractor, the day before yesterday. Through the magic of an unexpected top billing on DCBlogs, a site which features blogs by Washington, DC area bloggers, I suddenly attracted a very large number of visitors and comments (10 so far) based on my little screed about the pitfalls of being a contractor. Most either supported my observations or were neutral, although one - SciWonk - made the perfectly correct observation that " may not all be bad, but some of you are indeed very bad."

I guess it would be a good thing for me to set the record straight. I agree completely with SciWonk: there are indeed some really awful contractors out there feeding at the government trough at all levels. I was first introduced to contractors as a Lieutenant Colonel in the Air Force, running a division on the Air Staff in Washington. In that position I was able to observe many contractors representing many different companies, large and small. Some of them were hard-working, dedicated individuals I appreciated and respected more than some of the useless buffoons who were government employees; others were notorious for overpromising, overcharging, and underdelivering. There are good and bad contractors everywhere.

For my part, within my rather arcane area of expertise and the circle of offices I was hired to support (and I should note that there are seven different people/offices who can legitimately task me to do things for them) I am respected and treated as an integral part of the team. The problem comes when I run into the limitations of my role as a contractor: I can attend meetings on behalf of my customer, but can't commit the Air Force to anything, since I'm not a government employee. And I always find that reluctance on the part of many "govvies" to pay attention to what I have to say, because I'm a just a contractor (whether or not I know more about the topic at hand than they do), and the suspicion is that I'm just in it for the money. The outer limits of stupidity in government-contractor relations was reached for me that day a few years back that I wasn't allowed to contribute a dollar to help pay for a cake for a monthly office birthday party...because I was a contractor, and that dollar might have been considered an improper fiscal contribution (bribe?) to the government. Oh, for pete's sake...can we push the reality reset button here?

The customer is always right. Hardheaded, stupid, and clownish perhaps, but always right.

Here's the real bottom line of my rant on the contractor issue: be honest about it. Don't ruthlessly cut the size of government offices, then hire contractors because you can no longer do the job, then turn around and blame those contractors for sucking the government dry. If you are a government employee who is a contract manager, do your job - administer the contract and make sure that the government is being well served...don't just sit back and ignore poor performance until you find your name on the front page of the Washington Post. If you are a contractor, do your job, too, and remember that all the other contractors out there are being judged by your performance - if you're a bozo, everyone will automatically think the rest of us are bozos, too, and I resent being tarred with your brush.

I'm very good at what I do, and I'm proud to be part of a team that helps keep this country safe and secure. I'm a Contractor, with a capital "C." I just resent those people - other contractors, government employees, and investigative reporters - who would turn all of us into contractors with a little "c," the objects of scorn, blamed for the things that go wrong, even when they're not our fault.

Okay, I've said all I have to say on that topic. I need to go and fix some breakfast, and it's one of those jobs I can't contract out. Too bad.

Have a good day and a good weekend. More thoughts coming.



The Mistress of the Dark said...

You're making breakfast? set a plate for me :)

Sue said...

Mmmm, breaky!

I am impressed! Lt. Col? Wow!

There are bad employees everywhere you go, contracted or not. There's a real common name for them, 'irresponsible'.

Anonymous said...

The Man Watching

by Rainer Maria Rilke

I can tell by the way the trees beat, after
so many dull days, on my worried windowpanes
that a storm is coming,
and I hear the far-off fields say things
I can't bear without a friend,
I can't love without a sister

The storm, the shifter of shapes, drives on
across the woods and across time,
and the world looks as if it had no age:
the landscape like a line in the psalm book,
is seriousness and weight and eternity.

What we choose to fight is so tiny!
What fights us is so great!
If only we would let ourselves be dominated
as things do by some immense storm,
we would become strong too, and not need names.

When we win it's with small things,
and the triumph itself makes us small.
What is extraordinary and eternal
does not want to be bent by us.
I mean the Angel who appeared
to the wrestlers of the Old Testament:
when the wrestler's sinews
grew long like metal strings,
he felt them under his fingers
like chords of deep music.

Whoever was beaten by this Angel
(who often simply declined the fight)
went away proud and strengthened
and great from that harsh hand,
that kneaded him as if to change his shape.
Winning does not tempt that man.
This is how he grows: by being defeated, decisively,
by constantly greater beings.

(Reprinted here by the Community Development Resource Association -

Sue said...

Nice poetry!

Bilbo, (I almost wrote Billy, then almost Billy-Bob... hahaha, sorry)

I awarded you something speckal.