Friday, December 16, 2016

The Department of Energy told Trump to go pound sand. Now what?

The Trump Transition team asked some pointed questions to the DoE. DoE just said that they weren't going to answer.  That does not seem like it will play out well for DoE:
Today, we get the first salvo fired in response. From the Washington Post
“Our career workforce, including our contractors and employees at our labs, comprise the backbone of DOE (Department of Energy) and the important work our department does to benefit the American people,” Eben Burnham-Snyder, a DOE spokesman, told the Washington Post in an email. “We are going to respect the professional and scientific integrity and independence of our employees at our labs and across our department. We will be forthcoming with all publicly-available information with the transition team. We will not be providing any individual names to the transition team.” [Emphasis in original.]
When I saw that, I cracked up. Busted out laughing. I thought “You idiots! You just fell into the trap!”
Here’s the deal. The Transition Team sent that memo out. It doesn’t ask for anything other than the duties the employees performed. It doesn’t ask them to change their views or alter their scientific conclusions. It just wants to know, who worked on these projects? There is no reason to refuse that—it’s asked in this situation all over the world. A new boss comes in and says “Hey, who worked on the Jones project?” And Sally and Bob raise their hands. No harm, no foul.
Does anyone really think that the incoming DoE Secretary won't get these names?  Does anyone really think that he won't get the names of everyone who, say, worked on anything to do with the Paris Climate Accords?  Does anyone really think that he won't get the names of anyone who, say, went to Paris on DoE time and expense for the Climate Accord meeting?


But that isn't the avenue of attack here.  What is going to be identified is the committee memberships that are involved.  That's because bureaucrats are incredibly risk adverse, and so they essentially become herd animals.  The herds are called "committees", and like the wildebeest on the African savannah the committee provides protection to the individual bureaucrat:
If you want to take over a bureaucracy, the key thing to know is that a single bureaucrat all alone is almost always a weak, pitiful creature for a simple reason.
He/she finds it very, very difficult to make a decision on his/her own.
Why do you think bureaucracies always spawn double handfuls of boards and commissions and working groups and the like? As a group, they can make decisions, no problem. Might not be good decisions, but they can make them. Plus which it makes them brave to have six or eight other men and women in agreement. But by themselves, chronological inertia takes over, and they slowly sink into their natural vegetative state of torpor.
SO … if you want to take over a bureaucracy, how do you do it? Well, you either take over or abolish the groups that give individual bureaucrats power, [or] you isolate or otherwise neutralize the leaders.
The Trump team seems to be determined to attack the entrenched bureaucracy, in a way that I can't remember seeing before.  What is interesting is that the new paradigm is very different from the old:

Old Paradigm: The country wants the government to function and to perform its tasks efficiently.  The bureaucracy wins this game because while the old committees can be abolished, the new Administration cannot succeed without setting up new committees to make the Agency function.  If the Agency employees don't want to play along, the new committees will fail to work well, and the new Administration will fail at making the government work.  Advantage: entrenched bureaucracy.

New Paradigm: The country doesn't give a fat rat's derriere whether the government works well or not, because a plurality or majority of the country thinks that government is the problem, not the solution.  A non-trivial portion of the country may think that the Agency has been politicized and is aggressively implementing policies that the citizens don't agree with.  In this case, all the new Administration needs to do is eliminate the committees that are not desired, and the Agency will grind to a halt on the activities that are politically unpopular with the country.  No need to replace them and make them work, just gum up the works.  Advantage: new Administration.

It doesn't seem like anyone even needs to lose their jobs, just be made powerless and irrelevant.  I am quite keen to see how this plays out, but the current people at the DoE should not be optimistic of the outcome.


Jason said...

I'm looking forward to this type of letter being sent to every other department, and their replies. If Trump actually follows up and does something about them He will prove me completely wrong and I will gladly admit it.

Feather Blade said...

I suppose the old "Fire the person at the top, see if the next in line is more amenable to information requests. Repeat as necessary" is a bit crude.

But it is so much faster than assigning one of your own people to troll through the HR database.

matism said...

And THAT, Feather Blade, is how the Senior Executive Service works if a President REALLY wants to change something.

As I have said before, anyone who nominates Christine Whitman to head the EPA has NO interest in changing the EPA.

Old NFO said...

There are ways, one is 'moving' those to more 'important' jobs, in North of Nowhere, MT for example...

Gary in Bama said...

in the Dune Books Herbert wrote a good administrator takes seconds to make a decision. A bad one asks for studies and meetings before deciding. The good one accepts his fate good or bad . The bad one wants others to blame.

jon spencer said...

The new administration ought to start transferring these and many others to closed military base's to sit and contemplate.
Something like New York City's teachers "rubber rooms" where they warehouse teachers that are unfit to teach but unable to be fired.
Each base should have one phone line for calls and data for all those assigned.