Whether you like his policies as the Secretary of State, or don’t, right now Rex Tillerson is doing God’s work, Garden of Eden work, Noah’s Ark work, in the Department of State. So shoulder your weapons.
One of the greatest scenes in the classic film “The Last Emperor” was when Pu-Yi, the last Manchu emperor of China, wanted to modernize China and the Chinese government but was unable because of the great army of bureaucrats walled inside the Forbidden City. Suddenly they were expelled, en masse. a more beautiful sight to behind today then when I dreamed dreams of Ronald Reagan doing the same thing in 1987.
I’ve thought long and hard about busting bureaucracies for over forty years, and to date Rex Tillerson is the only government insider to appear to be taking the threat of bureaucratism seriously, even as the deep state is working overtime to derail every Trump initiative. This may also point to the source of the many rumors of Tillerson’s fall from favor of Trump. He is indeed a threat to the State bureaucracy, and I doubt very much that President Trump is opposed to it. Although Jared and Ivanka may well be. (Call it generational.)
I first encountered the sassiness of bureaucratism while serving as a Judge Advocate at the Army headquarters in Ft Huachuca, Arizona. They had a GS-14 senior public relations officer who had been charged with insubordination, refusing to carry out an order by his boss, the Post caommnder. I think it was a personal matter between the CG and him, but, (my guess) with just a little more than a year to go before retirement, he disobeyed a direct order, probably just to test the CG’s resolve. I was part of the review process, which everyone already knew was going to be decided on costs alone, i.e., the cost of litigation versus the cost of just letting him ride out his last year. It would be less costly to let him hold onto his desk (his job) but strip him of all duties and authority. There were several ways to do this. I was a brash captain, myself ony a few months from separation back to civilian life, my only addition to the suggestion box was that they give him an orange jump suit and empty peach crate and tell his he is still a GS-14, but his principal job would be to pick up trash around the Intelligence School. He was really an arrogant and insolent man.
When I left the Army later in the year he was logging 5-6 rounds of golf a week on company time, but he was doing no harm. A benign wart on the behind of a large cancerous sow, doing no greater damage than stealing approximately $47,000 (in those days) of taxpayer money, chump change even in those days.
I tell this story simply to illustrate the various ways to mitigate the damage of an out-of-control bureaucracy, all depending on the overall plan; to reduce its size, reduce its mission, reduce its power, etc. I’m not sure what Tillerson’s plan is, but he appears to be trying to force resignations and retirements by refusing to refill empty desks, which to my memory, is unheard of in government, outside the military and police departments.
Assuming that each desk in a bureaucracy represents one professional job, and a sum of money fixed by statute. Let’s say $80.000. Agency and departmental budgets are based on those desks being filled, and if they aren’t that $80,000 must be returned to the general fund to be redistributed the next budget year.
Even in 1969, when I worked in state government, it was unthinkable, UNPARDONABLE, to give money back to the state treasury. At the end of the fiscal year we would go out and buy office supplies by the square yard, then store them in a corner, so that our office manager could then do his Radar O’Reilly routine and go out and barter those supplies around other state agencies, possibly for a generator one of our field offices could use. You get the idea. It was an annual rite.
But if you refuse to fill slots you not only give money back, but you upset virtually every other desk in the department, for each desk has a “primary duty” and now those primary duties from closed desks have to be spread about to other desks.
All sorts of laws of bureaucratic harmony come into play when this happens. Disharmony, stress, internal squabbling, the age-old “if I’m doing more work, why am I not being paid more?” bitchiness we recognize more at the Waffle House grill than professional staff in federal government. It alters the entire biorhythms of an office environment and clearly makes bureaucrats petty. (For a glimpse at bureaucracies, drunk and sober, look at my short write-up about Kurosawa’s “Ikiru”. Worth your time to watch, especially if you work in the White House.)
At least this is how it works in theory, since I can’t recall a single major downward bureaucratic reorganization in government in my lifetime. One would have to go back to the great RIF’s (reductions in force) after the Vietnam War (in which I also played a small part since our 3-star wanted to save as many uniformed slots as possible) to find major downsizing, but which is a regular fact of life for the military. Police Departments suffer the fate, every time a new administration moves into City Hall.)
You’ll notice I haven’t mentioned any policy difference between Rex Tillerson and Donald Trump. People forget that Dick Cheney unfriended George W Bush when GW changed his policy toward Iran. These things happen. Often for the worse, since Bush prevailed, and that is part of the mess sitting in Trump’s lap today. Rex Tillerson understands that part of his job, regardless of how history portrays it later on and I will have no comment about that here.
But it’s impossible to define rumors, even “moron” rumors, without considering the sources, and the monumental threat Tillerson represents to the larger body of those sources on their home turf.
But he does appear to have a singular talent.
If Tillerson is doing God’s work with the State bureaucracy, and is doing it well, I’m all for Trump naming Rex Tillerson Bureaucracy Czar, and moving someone else into the Secretary’s Office.
If we can’t move the federal DC bureaucracy entirely within the District, where their vote won’t effect state elections, we can move entire agencies to other cities, preferably blue cities, (and their blighted areas, Ferguson-St Louis, Baltimore, Detroit), where their vote won’t matter. This would be the equivalent of moving United Nations headquarters to Karachi or Caracas.
I haven’t been around federal civil service regulations in over 40 years, by there has to be dozens of ways, if you can fire them, to at least blight the path of the bureaucracy as it moves inextricably toward blighting Donald Trump’s (and peoples”) path toward restoring the Constitutional blueprint, which of necessity means reducing their size, their cost, and their power over the lives of American citizens.
Where there’s a will, there’s a way. But if Rex Tillerson is having a positive impact at State, give him a bigger army.
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