Ed's Blog

"Some people know everything, but that's all they know."

THE GSA AND SECRET SERVICE SCANDALS: SYMPTOMS OF A LARGER PROBLEM

 

Government scandals are nothing new; they have plagued every presidential administration in American history, and they will continue to do so. What’s disturbing about the current General Services Administration (GSA) and Secret Service scandals is what they tell us about the changing character of U.S. government employees involved in them. (Read the full column at EWRoss.com)

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23 Responses

  1. Craigo says:

    Low caliber bureaucrats. This has all started slowly but inexorably, beginning with the deterioration of America’s churches, being just tacit and silent majorities who are told to believe and they will all be saved. Then the schools followed suit, and colleges began to teach atheism and progressivism. Then prayer was even outlawed in public schools. Then it was against the law to post the ten commandments near any public building. At the same time, no one wanted to hear about bible ethics or moral codes and the byword was, “Who’s to say that you are right, and I am wrong?” What makes your morals good ones and my morals bad ones?” Never willing to stay around and listen for the answer.

  2. Reposted from LinkedIn says:

    LinkedIn Group: Defense Industry Network

    Discussion: THE GSA AND SECRET SERVICE SCANDALS: SYMPTOMS OF A LARGER PROBLEM

    The corrupted morals of the leaders of our country has filtered from DC all the way down to the fraudulent “entitlement recipients” no longer happy with what they receive more concerned with how much they can “take” and for how long they can!

    Posted by Paul Daly

  3. Reposted from LinkedIn says:

    LinkedIn Group: Strategic Plans and Policy Experts

    Discussion: THE GSA AND SECRET SERVICE SCANDALS: SYMPTOMS OF A LARGER PROBLEM

    Ed

    Thanks! Good leaders make good organizations. I was happy to see a rational approach to this failure. There are examples under every administration of abuse. Nicely done!

    Jeff

    Posted by Jeff Nelson

  4. Reposted from LinkedIn says:

    LinkedIn Group: Center for a New American Security

    Discussion: THE GSA AND SECRET SERVICE SCANDALS: SYMPTOMS OF A LARGER PROBLEM

    Ed,

    Good article on this problem (in every administration). It nice to see a reminder and caution rather than another political comment.

    Thanks!

    Jeff

    Posted by Jeff Nelson

  5. Reposted from LinkedIn says:

    LinkedIn Group: U.S. Veteran

    Discussion: THE GSA AND SECRET SERVICE SCANDALS: SYMPTOMS OF A LARGER PROBLEM

    I wonder Ed, have we gotten to the point where those who are in the top positions and would otherwise be charged with cleaning up this mess and revising policies, and so on and so forth, actually have so many skeletons in their own closets that they are reticent to administer, let alone enforce any real changes.

    Though it’s incredible that these people were so blatant about their indiscretions, and it seems they don’t or didn’t think they were indiscretions, speaks volumes of the example being set for them by those in “higher” positions.

    Posted by Bob Schecter ★

  6. Reposted from LinkedIn says:

    LinkedIn Group: Campaign for Liberty

    Discussion: THE GSA AND SECRET SERVICE SCANDALS: SYMPTOMS OF A LARGER PROBLEM

    Very well stated. Too bad few, if any, of the people involved/responsible actually listen. But then I guess, though it pains me to say this, “That’s Government Bureaucracy at work”

    Posted by Rob Taylor

  7. Reposted from LinkedIn says:

    LinkedIn Group: US Military Veterans Network

    Discussion: THE GSA AND SECRET SERVICE SCANDALS: SYMPTOMS OF A LARGER PROBLEM

    Have to say I completely agree.

    Posted by Mary Skov

  8. Reposted from LinkedIn says:

    LinkedIn Group: Naval Postgraduate School Alumni

    Discussion: THE GSA AND SECRET SERVICE SCANDALS: SYMPTOMS OF A LARGER PROBLEM

    Ed, I agree that it would be unwise to try and pin these scandals on President Obama. That isn’t to say they wouldn’t be politically useful, particularly the GSA scandal. At a time when we are being told the “rich” aren’t paying their fair share, I counter, no one should be asked to pay one cent more, regardless of their economic situation, as long as we have out of control spending like that which was exposed in the GSA Vegas boondoggle. As to what leadership knows, I say hold them personally responsible for paying back any misappropriated funds. In my Navy experience, the plague of in port oil spills, disappeared as soon as Commanding Officers were being held financially liable for the cleanup. Federal leaders would be sure a similar “cleanup” take place in their “commands” if they were personally and monetarily on the hook!

    Posted by Kenneth McElroy

  9. Reposted from LinkedIn says:

    LinkedIn Group: Naval Postgraduate School Alumni

    Discussion: THE GSA AND SECRET SERVICE SCANDALS: SYMPTOMS OF A LARGER PROBLEM

    Ethics training will not fix the problem. In our country and around the world there is a growing trend of lawlessness at every level of society. It matters not if the incombency is predominately Rebulican or Democrat, conservative or liberal, capitalist or communist, mankind is generally selfish.

    Whether its Catholic priests and children or John Corzine and Bernie Madoff with investors money, man will do what benefits himself first and if it is illegal will try to keep it under wraps.

    The larger problem we see in the government is even more offensive because they are using the taxpayer’s (50% of the adult population) money to benefit the government employee. From excessive unnecessary travel to bloated programs all conducted in accordance with the regulations, government spends money that is not there’s for things most American’s don’t need while receiving a personal benefit by a paid trip to a nice sunny location in the winter or an exotic foreign country with a nice hotel and drinks by the pool. While the GSA and Secret Service scandals get press attention, the daily routine which is likely 10 to 100 times more expensive, gets no press and continues day by day and year by year while the employees enjoy the benfits at another’s expense.

    This is not a training proble, this is a heart problem. Until we all get our hearts right, we will continue to waste, defraud and overspend because it feels good.

    Posted by John Rackliffe

  10. Reposted from LinkedIn says:

    LinkedIn Group: The Intelligence Community

    Discussion: THE GSA AND SECRET SERVICE SCANDALS: SYMPTOMS OF A LARGER PROBLEM

    I suppose what bothers me the most is that although the Secret Service and the GSA were the actors, nobody is making the president accountable. I guess “the buck stops here” is a way-outmoded concept when it comes to presidential responsibility.

    Posted by Jerry Freese

  11. Reposted from LinkedIn says:

    LinkedIn Group: Foreign Area Officers

    Discussion: THE GSA AND SECRET SERVICE SCANDALS: SYMPTOMS OF A LARGER PROBLEM

    Ed, I would be curious to learn the ages of the folks involved. You don’t offer a theory on WHY this is happening, but I have a suspicion.

    This is just anecdotal observation and does NOT apply to everyone, but it seems to me that a lot of people in the younger set – meaning folks about 35 and under – have arrived in the workforce with little clue about such things as ethics, morals, obligations, duty, or paying one’s dues. Those things have been replaced by oblivious self-centeredness, an unrealistic sense of entitlement, and a general view that if something is not actually illegal, or if you probably won’t get caught, then it’s OK. Prostitution in Colombia is legal, so it must be OK, right? As for the GSA employees, I sort of picture them a little drunk on the size of the budget at their disposal. Why would they give me control over all this money if I’m not allowed to spend it, right?

    My unscientific theory on this is based on numerous reports of students whose helicopter parents follow them to college and hover around the registration process, forcing colleges to put in place reception programs designed to separate the parents from the students and send them on their way. These same students often have no clue how to do basic home chores or take care of bills, etc. And that trend, according to a lot of schools, is growing. Even some businesses have reported that some parents have actually showed up to their children’s job interviews!! Neither the parents nor the children seem to realize that this is a sure-fire way to NOT get hired.

    The point is: too many 18-year-olds, or even 22-year-olds, are arriving in the adult world still as children. They have not been challenged and allowed to fail; they have not been allowed to deal with interpersonal relationships on their own. They are cocky and entitled, yet insecure and in no way ready for independence, and certainly not for independent thought and decision-making. Too many have no sense of judgment. It is a real cultural shift, and not in a good way.

    I agree with you that the government (and businesses everywhere) need to beef up their ethics/values/legal/security training. I would hit the new employees (contractors, too!) hard with the kind of training we got as COMSEC custodians, where it seemed like every third sentence involved jail time if you messed this up. Annual refreshers are good, but there needs to be something more intensive right up front. That would also be a good place to teach proper handling of classified, something else I have seen is lacking.

    Another good thing, harder to implement, would be a mentoring program. Harder because mentoring is most effective when it happens informally and naturally, as opposed to being assigned. Many of the same “new kids” who have the most unrealistic expectations are actually the most insecure, which is reflected in their greater desire for constant feedback and approval. Good mentors can take advantage of that – it’s our chance to mold them into the adults we want in the workforce.

    Posted by Robin Phillips

  12. Reposted from LinkedIn says:

    LinkedIn Group: Department of Defense

    Discussion: THE GSA AND SECRET SERVICE SCANDALS: SYMPTOMS OF A LARGER PROBLEM

    An excellent write-up that frames the problem exactly.

    Posted by Tom Ray

  13. Reposted from LinkedIn says:

    LinkedIn Group: The Intelligence Community

    Discussion: THE GSA AND SECRET SERVICE SCANDALS: SYMPTOMS OF A LARGER PROBLEM

    I wonder if Mr. Ross was equally outspoken about the multiple failures of leadership and character that enabled the far-reaching fraud and criminality in the financial industry that nearly took down the global economy. I also wonder if he or any of the commenters here were equally loud about calling for Presidential accountability during the many moral and financial scandals during the Reagan and Bush administrations.

    One of our major political parties has spent the past 35 years denouncing government, disparaging the people who choose public service, touting the infallibility of the private sector and celebrating greed and grasping ambition as long as it happens in a corporate environment. Is it any wonder people are entering government service now with the “get everything I can” attitude we’ve come to expect in corporate boardrooms?

    Posted by Lance Charnes

  14. Reposted from LinkedIn says:

    LinkedIn Group: Fox News Networking Group

    Discussion: THE GSA AND SECRET SERVICE SCANDALS: SYMPTOMS OF A LARGER PROBLEM

    Someone should investigate the FBI and the IRS . They make the Secret Service look like a bunch of Boy Scouts. I spent 31 years as an IRS Special Agent (Criminal Investigator) and worked for several years at the FBI’s Joint Terrorism Task Force investigating money laundering. Senior managers at both agencies are operating under the influence of the Mexican based Sinaloa Cartel aka the Federation. I reported this to Senator Joseph Lieberman and Senator Charles Schumer and they did nothing, I reported it to several Senators and was forced into retirement as a result. I am left the with opinion that the corrupt managers are acting on behalf of several Senators. I am bringing a civil RICO against them in a few months, it seems that the government is too corrupt to police itself.

    Posted by Michael Wensink

  15. Bob says:

    It would definitely be politically out of bounds to associate any blame for this scandal on president Obama. I also have to wonder if the sentiment would be the same if it occurred during the Bush administration.

  16. Reposted from LinkedIn says:

    LinkedIn Group: Naval Postgraduate School Alumni

    Discussion: THE GSA AND SECRET SERVICE SCANDALS: SYMPTOMS OF A LARGER PROBLEM

    The previous comments were ‘spot on'; particularly John’s (Rackliffe) observation about human greed. This is apolitical, rather it is an indictment of moral fabric, personal responsibility, and self-discipline. We hear this in our courts today, “If you don’t have a picture of me doing it, then I didn’t do it.”

    Management who knew of this should immediately be fired (and prosecuted) — in the Cartagena incident for human trafficking [this is an aspect of current official training on this subject]. Management who was unaware of this should immediatley be fired, and replaced with leadership who will now know that their job is to serve the people as involved managers and stewards of the public interest.

    Posted by Neil Putz

  17. Reposted from LinkedIn says:

    LinkedIn Group: Fox News Networking Group

    Discussion: THE GSA AND SECRET SERVICE SCANDALS: SYMPTOMS OF A LARGER PROBLEM

    Michael, since you were pressured to retire in 2008 do you see the changing character of US government employees that Ed refers to as something that happened between 2000 and 2008?

    Thank you for having good moral convictions and standing by them. I wish more federal and private employees demonstrated your character.

    Posted by Todd Franklin

  18. Reposted from LinkedIn says:

    LinkedIn Group: Naval Postgraduate School Alumni

    Discussion: THE GSA AND SECRET SERVICE SCANDALS: SYMPTOMS OF A LARGER PROBLEM

    Whoa! What are we talking about here…, judging before knowing ALL the facts? Come on, we are simply opining on something of which we really know little, and worst of all the “facts” are being presented through the salacious media. What is the history of the practice? I can tell you after serving over eight years inside the beltway; this is not a single incident that is an indicator of a precipitous moral decline. We’ve been boiling this frog in many venues for the life of modern government. John’s observation that these occasions are all within regulations is central to the issue. Just as the civilian sector modifies rules, regulations, and oversight to benefit those who are in the position to accrue most benefit. The same thing occurs within the government for the same reasons, power and control of power. Let’s disabuse ourselves of the notion that our core values in these matters are altruistic. No amount of evangelical smoke can obscure fundamental human nature in a society that worships at the altar of wealth. So, what does all this rant mean? It means nothing in the bigger picture of human nature. It is what it is, and we are who we are, and if this was not the silly season of political jousting; it would be business as usual…sorry to say.

    On the secret service “scandal” I don’t know of any rational supervisor who would condone an atmosphere of in your face violations of agency ethics and rules. Again this is not a symptom of precipitous decline, but rather an incident that requires strict application of existing rules and punishments, ONLY after fair and orderly adjudication…get on with it and get over it. If there are supervisors who condone this behavior, apply the rules and punishments, again only after fair and orderly adjudication of guilt or innocence. This nonsense of resigning or firing someone simply because others behaved badly doesn’t make any rational sense. And since when did the stipulation of “should have known” become a rational requirement for office, since we don’t screen these people for their accuracy in prescience. This is all simply political eyewash. Again, this is not a sign of precipitous moral decline. This behavior has always been there as part of the “Power Syndrome”. I’m elite, it’s no one else’s business, I’m untouchable, etc. It is who we are as humans.

    Posted by Tony Kopacz

  19. Reposted from LinkedIn says:

    LinkedIn

    Subject: RE:THE GSA AND SECRET SERVICE SCANDALS: SYMPTOMS OF A LARGER PROBLEM

    Good Afternoon Ed,

    I enjoyed your editorial (doesn’t that usually mean that I agree with you?). And agree that many of the underlying issues are political questions that Americans will grapple with now and in the future.

    I’d like to say that there might be a way to answer the how question, that is how did we get to this place? Or better still, what values/choices need to be reinforces in government service. About a year ago I read an article that included trends in “blue” vs. “red” states. {To me it’s unfortunate that it’s stated politically since those of the other persuasion will not be as open to the questions and answers.} I can’t quote the article nor remember where it came from, but the gist was that things like divorce, teen pregnancy, teen marriage, some violent crime are less in the “blue” states. It would be interesting to know what there is about those places that produce less of these things. I know that the specifics between the two examples (less negative social impacts and wrongful behavior by employees) are different. I wonder whether the underlying commonality could be that more people seem to make better choices in the “blue” areas. If so some of that information on how or why the choices are better might apply to the current crisis of “me-ism” that seems to be at the bottom of this change in values in government service.

    To be clear, I am a liberal so of course I liked what I read, but if it’s accurate then there might be some gems of wisdom that could be used to make a difference, in peoples actions, more quickly. I acknowledge that those “red” states/areas may also have some valuable inputs, supported by lower numbers of infractions or poor choices, in other areas that could also be used to discern and enforce the values that people bring to their jobs.

    Susan

  20. Dennis St.John says:

    Ed and all,

    I entered government service in late 1975 at the end of one of the biggest scandals in modern history – Watergate and the enemies list (appropriate to this discussion is the death of Charles Colson this past week). It would be easy to say that most government scandals result from political appointees rather than careerists (think Watergate, think Iran-Contra, think Curveball and WMD in Iraq) but that would be too facile. I think part of the problem is, to be sure, political and ideological in the case of those scandals I have just cited parenthetically. I was the lead analyst for the Tower Commission back in 1986-1987 and to me that situation, at least in the case of those government officials involved, came down to what I describe as “True Believers – Great Deceivers” – people so convinced of the righteousness of their cause that any means to achieve it was justified even if it meant actions that ran counter to stated national policy (trading arms for hostages with terrorists and their state sponsors) and were illegal (funding the Contras in violation of the Boland Amendment).

    Neither the GSA nor the Secret Service scandal fit that model however. Neither of these were ideologically inspired but rather were cases of “getting way with something” for selfish advantage because they thought they could. I would say the underlying causes here involve a demeaning of what it means to choose a career in “public service” – answering JFK’s call to “ask not what your country can do for you but what you can do for your country.” Maybe it is part of the “jading of patriotism,” maybe it is part of the “me generation,” and maybe it is part of a lack of commitment to career Federal Service resulting from the shift from CSRS careerits to the culture inculcated by the “revolving door” embodied by the FERS concept.

    Doubtless, the vast majority of Federal employees continue to enter government service out of a sense of patriotism. The few who tarnish the reputation of all do so out of selfishness.

    It is a pity but it is and always has been a fact nd it is that small minority who will always garner the headlines.

  21. Reposted from LinkedIn says:

    LinkedIn Group: U.S. GOVERNMENT CONNECTIONS

    Discussion: THE GSA AND SECRET SERVICE SCANDALS: SYMPTOMS OF A LARGER PROBLEM

    I don’t think this issue is limited to government employees, since there are similarly awful scandals in private enterprise, such as BP employees being charged with obstructing justice, and Wal-Mart being charged with bribing Mexican officials. As to “changing character,” these issues have always been with us, dating back to and beyond the Tea Pot Dome scandal and the Robber Barons.

    Posted by Marc Brenman

  22. Reposted from LinkedIn says:

    LinkedIn Group: Tea Party Connect – From A Business View

    Discussion: THE GSA AND SECRET SERVICE SCANDALS: SYMPTOMS OF A LARGER PROBLEM

    Ed has it right. The changing character of the Government is that it is totally out of control.The government no longer serves the people it’s officials are elected to do. They no longer feel the need to stick with their oath of office to up hold and protect the Constitution. It now represents an opportunity to steal and cheat the American people blind. It represents a ruling elite that is looking for anyway possible to get more power over the people it is supposed to serve. Health care, environmental socialism via the EPA, no budget constraints, no checks and balances, only the head long goal on how to completely turn the citizenry into salves and return to the people as little as possible. The media is owned and controlled by the ruling elite. The media no longer works to keep the people voting informed, but to dis inform them for the benefit of the ruling elite and the perpetuation of their own power.

    Posted by Jeff Witt

  23. Reposted from LinkedIn says:

    LinkedIn Group: Department of Defense

    Discussion: THE GSA AND SECRET SERVICE SCANDALS: SYMPTOMS OF A LARGER PROBLEM

    Yes, I completely agree. But, the sad part about the whole things is it makes the rest of government employees pay the price because that becomes the perception of the general public that government employees are lazy and looking for a free ride. They do not see all the day to day sacrifices that we make, or the civilian creed that we uphold. JMO.

    Posted by Gayle Gjinaj

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