Being a Federal Employee means being a part of something much bigger than many people, including myself, can really comprehend. The FAA employs about 50,000 people, with ~5,000 of them working here in Oklahoma. Susan supervises people in a dozen different states; her supervisor lives in a different state, too. My supervisor works in Oklahoma, and while I don’t manage other people (Thank God; I’m not all that great at managing myself!), I deal with networks and servers and people spanning across all fifty states and into five or six remote countries. Sometimes what I do feels pretty important, although truth by told you would probably need a magnifying glass to find me on any national-level organizational chart.
I’ve been working either with or for the FAA for almost sixteen years now. That many years of dealing with the government warps your sense of reality. I find more and more there are things I have become accustomed to that friends of mine who work in the private sector (or worse, the state) cannot relate to, and vice versa. I’ve never had a leave request of mine denied. I accrue more sick leave than I could hopefully ever use. I’ve attended more than my share of training classes and traveled to dozens of states doing all kinds of interesting work. Like any place of employment my job isn’t all roses, but the longer I’m there the harder it gets to complain about anything other than the normal day-to-day shizz that I’m sure goes on anywhere.
For a couple of weeks whispers of budget cuts had been circulating at work, although nobody knew what, which, or how bad funds would be cut. I’m not worried at all about losing my job (one of those things my friends in the private sector can’t relate to), but I am concerned about how I will perform my job in the future. Actually “concerned” may be too strong of a word, although “curious” doesn’t seem strong enough. That’s another reality I have unfortunately grown to accept: in my world, you do what you can do with what you have. And that’s it.
The rumors were true, and we’re just now beginning to see what’s getting cut. The first official memo we received informed us that, in 2011, we can expect the following: no new hires (this includes backfilling vacant positions), no raises (cost of living, promotion-related, or otherwise), no travel, no training, no conferences, and no new furniture. There are of course stipulations and exceptions to all of these things, but probably not at my level. Thank goodness I just got a new chair; I suspect I’ll be sitting in the same one for years to come.
There are rumors of other cuts to come as well. Rep. Mike Coffman has introduced a bill that would require federal employees to take a 10 day furlough in FY2010. Those two weeks would be unpaid, and employees could not use vacation during that time. As a dual income family with no debt to speak of (house and school loans only; all three cars are paid off) it’s a one-time storm we could weather, but it could cause legitimate hardships for many of our friends and co-workers. At least we’ve got a year’s notice. If that happens, Susan and I plan on trying to coordinate our two-weeks off and plan the road trip of a lifetime. We might even let the kids come.
For many years I worked as a government contractor, which, as I’ve always said, is a double-edged sword; the pay is great, but the job security aspect is always sketchy. In all my years as a contractor I was never out of work or laid off, but I saw lots of people who were, many with little or no notice. As a contractor, my salary was well above the national average when compared to other IT professionals. In 2010 when I returned to federal service from being a contractor I took roughly a 20% pay cut, trading job security for expendable income. My salary now falls right in the middle of the income bell curve; my paycheck is not the reason we as a country are in debt, I assure you.
Aspects of my job are about to change, and soon. Historically we have been a travel-heavy work force, and that will change at least in the short term. We also refresh our hardware more frequently than many other IT shops; that too could change. There are others rumors of restructures and consolidations, but right now they’re rumors and I can’t worry about them. All I can do is hold down my little part of the fort and hope the walls don’t crumble during my watch.