Destroyed Emails

As some of you may remember Peg & I volunteered for the U.S. Forest Service a couple years ago.  We served there for the better part of a year as Volunteer Coordinators — splitting the role between us.

Because we were involved with hiring and recruiting other volunteers it was necessary to get an FBI clearance to access the USFS internal network and to administer their pages on sites like Volunteer dot gov.  When I hear stories about personnel in the current administration having to wait on clearances I fully understand how long it can take for what seem to be simple processes.  For example, to generate a USFS user account took something like 3 months.  Now, bear in mind that the actual process of assigning a user and propagating the acccount on the network is only the work of a couple minutes — but our Uncle Sam does snot move rapidly.

I was reading the other day about someone under investigation who had deleted 30,000 emails.  You know, that sounds like a lot of emails.  But then after a few months in a volunteer position — where I wasn’t even getting the same level of email correspondence as a full time employee received I was getting hundreds of emails per day — mostly about stuff that had already happened: reports and reports and reports.  I know for a fact that I was trashing at least a hundred emails a day — and I was just a volunteer who actually SAVED relevant correspondence.  All the applications from potential volunteers I still saved even if they weren’t going to be asked to work.  I really believe in a paper trail / audit trail and I went to great lengths to make sure that whomever might follow me would be able to tell what had happened historically.

I’m not making excuses for government officials deleting emails.  I think transparency in government has not yet gotten to the point that it should be.  We need MORE transparency and not less.  But at the same time I have seen the incredible waste of time and resources that a government agency can squaner.

Ya know, I really don’t care which party is in power.  For much of my life I leaned Republican.  Sometime in the Bush era I started leaning Democratic primarily because the Republican party seemed no longer to care about governing and only about obstructing.  And under this administration what is clear is that there is an attempt to remove as many protections for average americans and as many protections for the natural resources of this country so that business can rape and pillage without obstruction.  It maddens me that rich officials spend tax dollars as if they were there own, instead of a trust given them by the public.  It maddens me that Agency secretaries think that flying 1st class is justified because so many of the public seem to abuse them — without thinking to themselves, “if these policies are so disruptive how else can we achive the goals of our agency?”  But no.  The Administration has an agenda and damn the public they are going to pursue it, with our without consensus.

I’ll admit that I didn’t know much about the security clearance procedure when I was going through it.  But I filled out the same form that Jared Kushner filled out and I find it amazing that he had to go back three times to make corrections.  My God, the questions are in simple English.  No one with a high school education should be stumped by the answers they are required to give — except of course if they don’t want to give them.

Why people with a little ( or a lot ) of money think that rules should not apply to them really annoys me.  I’m sure it annoys most of the population.  It was almost a common joke when O.J. Simpson was on trial that the rich don’t really have to live by the rules because they can hire expensive attorneys to get them out of trouble.  Since then there have been numerous other cases to hit the national media where the well-to-do accused have walked away from court with nary a hand-slap or a minimal sentence all the while the poor find the book thrown at them.  White Privilege does exist.

After our time with the Forest Service I found out that among agencies the USFS is not one of the those that is voted the best place to work.  The year after we left the annual survey of federal employees attitudes about their workplace put the USFS in #167th place of most desirable agencies and offices.  So, I had no surprise when it came to light this week that U.S. Forest Service Chief Tony Tooke resigned over sexual harrassment allegations and admitted that there were workplace issues that needed attention.

Clearly there are aspects of the current administration that really suck. It has the worst ethics record of any administration in recent history, but the current administration is not the end of the problem.  People have been abusing their positions in lots of ways because there’s a lack of moral leadership in this country.  And that will not change with a liar in the White House. It’s inevitable that the longer he stays in office the worse it will be for the country.

They say in the military that if you have a bad unit, or a poorly performing ship, you don’t change all the soldiers, or all of the sailors — you only change one person: the commander.  Ethics, discipline, work ethic — these all trickle down from the top.  If the sailors see their chief demanding ethical behavior — and giving it as well, they will improve.  But a rotten chief cannot command an efficient fighting machine.  Lack of discipline, lack of ethics, a commander who doesn’t know how to tell the truth or to inspire his staff to excellence — all these result in the loss of wars, not just the loss of a battle.

Yeah — I can understand many of the problems that exist in government.  I can see how many of them are quite understandable.  But you don’t improve things dramatically from the bottom up.  Leadership comes from above and right now the people steering the ship have no idea where they’re going or how they’re going to get there.  Chaos and conflict have never built a nation.  They only destroy nations.   And from past history it seems they only destroy corporations too….


2 thoughts on “Destroyed Emails

  1. In my industry I worked with government agencies – the vast difference in operating from one to the next was incomprehensible. Even the experience of working with a government agency on a personal/consumer level is an exercise in frustration/anxiety/never get the same answer twice/right hand doesn’t know what the left hand is doing.


    1. I was fortunate to have worked either in small companies, or for myself for most of my working life. I will never forget the experience of those 10 months working for the Forest Service; I grew in my respect for government workers and also I grew in my distaste for government workers. It was indeed a double edged sword.

      Being that large has problems a small businessman can scarcely understand — or want to understand — but it is necessary if a machine the size of government is to function in a society of this size. It’s easier in Finland, or Denmark where the population is a drop in the bucket of the size of the US population.

      I wish you luck in your career. I’m glad I had little to do with governmental agencies. It must be challenging to be sure.



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