Monday, October 10, 2016

Dr. Theodore G. Pavlopoulos Posits: Is the U.S. Office of Personnel Management Responsible for 9/11?

Introduction: On September 10, 2001, then Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld used the phrase "a matter of life and death" in a speech to Pentagon personnel, titled "War on Bureaucracy." He stated that the Pentagon's bureaucracy was dysfunctional. The next day, one airplane crashed into the Pentagon, and two airplanes crashed into the World Trade Center. It was the most devastating terrorist attack in United States history. It has been said that old generals just fade away, but that great nations commit suicide. With a fysfunctional federal bureaucracy that has left us ill-equipped to deal with natural disasters, energy shortages, and war, I believe America is committing suicide.
September 11 was a wake-up call for Americans in many far-reading areas, including security, diplomacy, and immigration. The terrorist attacks should also have been a wake-up call for our poorly functioning federal civil service. Unfortunately, this did not happen. Performance problems at the FBI, the CIA, and other federal departments and agencies have been reported. Unfortunately, no one seems to have a workable solution to these problems. The President, Congress, and the American people seem to have no idea that those sections of the federal civil service system are steadily descending into a very serious human resources crisis. Americans have found many good solutions for their political, social, technical, scientific, and medical dilemmas, but their federal civil service system is still a mess...

Is the U.S. Office of Personnel Management Responsible for 9/11?
The American Bureaucracy: A Veteran's Eye-Opening Memoirs

By Dr. Theodore G. Pavlopoulos

Stop! Don't think because you do not work in the federal government system that this book does not concern you! It does! Let me be more specific, I worked at a state university and I can support, from my own experiences, that this author is providing factual information. I may disagree with his basic premise, though, that the U.S. Office of Personnel is responsible. Only because I believe it is much more wide-spread than one office or one system. America has lost its edge in dealing with the human resource... I consider it epidemic...

Dr. Pavlopoulos has used his own life story, his memoirs, to begin his narrative. I will admit that I was hesitant to read the book, even though the author had checked out my own experience and felt I would understand the book. That is, I started in an Office of Personnel and moved upward into upper administration of a government supported, land grant university. The reason why I hesitated was, you see, I had a feeling that the author would be attacking the same issues that I had... I was right...

In beginning his book, Dr. Pavlopoulos presents his educational and professional credentials. He had received sufficient recognition from his professional peers that this reader quickly knew that this man had been treated unfairly by the institution(s) in which he worked. Although his personal story is paramount to the book and understanding his conclusions, I'm not going to spend much time other than to support that my own nearly 40 years within a state institution are too similar and too relevant to his arguments not to validate this book. More specifically, it is practically impossible for an employee who is willing to speak out about discrimination in any form, will succeed in receiving a satisfactory or even a negotiated response.

 I highly recommend this book to any citizen who wonders how good employees are shunted aside in any organization while others are promoted and are often known to be slackers on the job... 

I am totally shocked by the
way some employees do not
work and the waste of time
that is tolerated. My agency
and supervisor provide very
little feedback on my
performance. It is difficult
to obtain any performance
rating except 'fully
successful.' My supervisor
does not agree with the
policy of giving awards or
recognition, so he doesn't.
When a supervisor is
selected, not only do they
need to be qualified, but
they need to be able to work
with people and understand
The question for me was whether the Office of Personnel Management can be held responsible as opposed to the very leaders of the institution, in this case, the U.S. Government. Yes, it was up to OPM to keep officials informed, but the author or the readers do not know whether that indeed happened, at least on the record.

However, it is clear that most "personnel systems" do not succeed. Why? Because of the supervisors, managers, and administrators who apply it??

What we do know is that employees' attitudes have greatly changed. 

From the 1994 survey on "Working for America," the MSPB obtained information on whether the federal civil service is protected from prohibited practices violating merit-system principles. These are some of the survey responses:

The extreme secrecy with which cash awards are given leads me to believe that inequities exist. An award, cash or otherwise, should be a public honor.

I have to rate employees based on a quota system. I was ordered to lower two ratings to meet quotas. Quality of work was never mentioned as a reason to lower these ratings.

People who have started years after me with even less education are up for GS-9.

Affirmative actions and whistle-blower policies are useless if a first-line supervisor can manipulate the facts in a believable manner and retaliate against an employee!

My supervisor is a master in manipulating the system to suit his needs and the needs of a few favorite employees.

The reality is that going against your supervisor--fair or unfair--kills your career.

I have been in the same job for eighteen years! I have been turned down for five promotions even after making the best-qualified list each time. My agency does not promote people with skills. You must be a good friend of management or be a white male!

The government could use employees much more effectively. Presently, people are being stifled. What people are capable of doing is not considered as important as whether or not they fit into the system.

What is also known is that "in the early 1990s, it dawned on the
Center's management that the overall performance and productivity had plummeted..." This was based on the inability to resolve position management/classification problems. That is, employees who were performing above their classifications were never brought into line. Basically, what this said to me was that employees who had been assigned additional duties by their supervisors, either had never been submitted for the appropriate upgrade, or that they didn't push to recognize additional work of that employee, not wanting the hassle of working with Personnel... Management experts have noted The Peter Principle which shows that supervisors, and managers are often promoted to their level of incompetence due to poor selection choices made by superiors...

My department was reorganized at one time, with some people moved into another department, while the duties and responsibilities remained with me. In order to accommodate to the loss of people, I changed the job descriptions of my other staff, spreading the work load. I was chastised by Personnel because I had done this. My question was, how else did you expect to be able to respond to loss of staff without a decrease of workload? Included to illustrate confirmation of what this book covers.

Donald Rumsfeld, on Monday, September 10, 2001, addressed The Pentagon personnel... He was asking for War...He led his audience by the hand, talking about an adversary that posed a huge threat to the security of the United States. It might have been one of the most significant speeches that any individual in Washington ever presented! 

Then he honed in on that adversary--it was the bureaucracy of the Pentagon! He quickly pointed to specific issues and went on and on...The author has provided that entire speech in his book and notes that "the Secretary of Defense deserves to be applauded" and I totally agreed... But did anything come out of that speech that occurred just a day before 9-11? Or did it just get pushed aside, with claims that 9-11 had presented "much more important" issues than just internal administration of our government?

The author also has honed in on many more issues, too numerous to include in this review, but did include a section of "Autocratic and Incompetent Management" and then begins to question what was publicly provided on this issue...and then moves directly into his question as to whether the OPM is responsible, mentioning that many shortcomings and disasters were spotlighted after 9-11. I must admit that the author's presentation and lead into this final section warrants considerable thought...and, hopefully, ACTION..

Unfortunately, the career of Dr. Theodore G. Pavlopoulos ended sadly at his retirement...So did mine. By that time, I was in an unclassified job which allows you to just be told there is no longer a job for you. My immediate supervisor at that time did not even have the guts to discuss what was happening with me, and I notified him only then that I had filed for retirement. I hope the author will forgive me for including a small part of my own story and hope he will realize that I did it in support of his book and on his assertion that the government bureaucracy is in crisis...

Whether it is his recommendations that should be followed is not something that I can say. What I do know is that I consider this book a must-read. It is your tax dollars that fund our government activities. You need to read a book like this to begin to understand, if you don't already feel that there is something very wrong with the bureaucratic actions of our government, as well as working environments across America...


Dr. Theodore G. Pavlopoulos is a retired physicist. He was born in Greece and educated in Germany. During World War II, he studied chemistry for two years at the State Academy for Technology in Chemnitz. From 1946 to 1951, he studied physics at the Technical University of Berlin and the University of Göttingen. He obtained a diploma in physics (equiv. MS degree) in 1951 and a doctorate in 1953 from the University of Göttingen. He immigrated to Canada, where he worked as a postdoctoral fellow at the University of Toronto and the British Columbia Research Council. In 1956, he continued as a postdoctoral fellow at Tulane University, UCLA, and as a physicist at Convair in San Diego. He worked as a physicist with the Navy in 1965 in San Diego and retired there in 2003. In 1975 he was elected a member of the New York Academy of Sciences.

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