Transition Shout-out to Career Feds


USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack and others at the newly renovated USDA Child Development Center. Note FS employee on the left.

I’ve worked in DC during a couple of transitions, including the last D to R transition. That one was pre-social media, so scrutinizing every miss-step was more difficult.  You had to read the newspapers, and there’s only so much space in newspapers.  And there are many, many agencies and departments where things can go wrong.

Anyway, it’s hard to describe what it’s like to have the top people replaced and for them to get hold of the reins.  Can you imagine running a company that has thousands of locations and employees and responsibilities, and you and your team have never worked there, nor with each other,  before?  It’s kind of amazing that transitions work as well as they do.  That’s because most career federal employees put aside their own partisan views and follow the Constitution, as in their oath of office.  IMHO, they deserve a big shout-out for their work this week and in the coming weeks. It’s invisible, and the glue that helps keep the government running.

Here’s a little flavor of  “another day at the office”, transition version..via this Washington Post story.

“The ARS guidance was not issued in coordination with other offices at the USDA, department officials said, and partially contradicted a department-wide memo that went out on the same day. The USDA-wide memo, issued by the department’s acting deputy administrator, Michael Young, was intended to offer guidance on “interim procedures” until a new secretary takes over USDA.

Young stressed during a phone call with reporters Tuesday evening that his guidance does not place a gag order on publication to scientific journals, does not place a blanket freeze on press releases, or prohibit food safety announcements.

“The ARS guidance was not reviewed by me. I would not have put that kind of guidance out. My guidance has to do with policy-related announcement and that sort of thing,” Young said during a phone call with reporters early Tuesday evening. “I had my memo drafted before the ARS memo, I was not a part of it.”

Young’s memo, a copy of which was given to The Washington Post, emphasizes that press releases and policy statements must be routed through the office of the secretary for approval: “In order for the Department to deliver unified, consistent messages, it’s important for the Office of the Secretary to be consulted on media inquiries and proposed response to questions related to legislation, budgets, policy issues, and regulations,” said the memo. “Policy-related statements should not be made to the press without notifying and consulting the Office of the Secretary. That includes press releases and on and off the record conversations.”

Young stressed that he is a “career official,” not a partisan appointee, and said that the memo he issued closely mirrored one sent at the beginning of the Obama administration. He also said he shared the memo with Trump transition official Sam Clovis before issuing it.

“This is really just formalizing again what is fairly standard practice within the department. I just felt like, yeah, I want to be cautious because I don’t want any surprises on my watch. I was trying to avoid any surprises,” he said.”



4 thoughts on “Transition Shout-out to Career Feds”

  1. Sharon, you wrote:
    Can you imagine running a company that has thousands of locations and employees and responsibilities, and you and your team have never worked there, nor with each other, before?
    Yep. Most folks I know can imagine just that. And worse.
    I serviced retail chain jewelry stores years ago and every time the regional manager got promoted or fired everything changed. Including whether or not I still had the job, the price I could charge, the managers I had to deal with and service time required. Even the attire of our delivery drivers!
    Please don’t misunderstand. I do appreciate what working for a federal agency must be like. Lord knows I couldn’t do it.
    But I hope agency folks who are feeling stressed out will at least consider a different perspective. Even with the turmoil hardships and stress of changing administrations, up here in rural Idaho a gig at the USFS is one of the best jobs available. I know folks who schlep for years as a seasonal in hopes to get on full time.
    Please forgive me if I don’t join you in this shout out.

    • Thanks for the perspective, Brian and it’s true that the drama affects people in DC more. They try to buffer the folks on the ground until things get m/l sorted out.


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