Things to Do in Washington When You’re Dead Weight

As public choice theory tells us, bureaucrats tend to act in their own self interest, even though that often comes at the expense of taxpayers. If you’re not yet sold on public choice theory, consider one of the topics at the annual conference of the Senior Executives Association.

Fearful of the possibility of impending budget cuts, this recent meeting of high-ranking federal employees featured a session on “Survival Skills for the Coming Budget Crunch.”

This session could have been an opportunity to instruct senior managers on ways they could reduce or eliminate unnecessary expenditures, pare down the size of their staff, and shed duplicative operations.

Or it could be a lesson on gaming the system and saving one’s own hide.

Here’s how the Federal Times described it:

Managers should consider declaring a crisis in their programs, said Andy Uscher, SEA’s corporate relations director. They should develop relationships with budget examiners and build political support.

If possible, Uscher said, they should connect programs to national security or the president’s management agenda.

They can also argue that cuts have already occurred or assert that reductions would actually increase costs, he said.

They should consider using contractors or consultants instead of new employees, Uscher added.

“Contracting is just not tracked as much as people are,” he said.

So if you’re a senior official in the federal government facing the prospect of a cut to your budget, you should cozy up to politicos, intentionally overstate the importance of your agency, and lie about the implications of budget cuts?

It’s no wonder that the dismal status quo reigns supreme in Washington.