Sherwood's Notebook: The Bureaucracy Issue

We tested our readers last week. We threw out the word “interoperability” and challenged the bureaucracy to speak more plainly.

And now, so you really can appreciate bureaucracy, we’re going to wallow in it again.

One person offered a quote from famed Navy Adm. Hyman Rickover, the father of the nuclear Navy:

“If you are going to sin, sin against God, not the bureaucracy. God will forgive you but the bureaucracy won’t.”

So asking for your forgiveness, we plunge ahead.

■ Performance time. If you want to sit in on lots of public hearings, make plans to head to the D.C. Council soon.

Beginning on Feb. 9 and continuing through March 13, the council plans about five weeks of hearings on every aspect of how city agencies have performed over the last year. You can see the whole list and maybe sign up to testify here.

And if that doesn’t provide you enough bureaucracy, don’t despair.

About the time the performance hearings are ending, the 2016 budget will step into the spotlight. The council will launch another set of exhaustive hearings in April on that document.

Mayor Muriel Bowser normally would submit her 2016 budget on March 15. But all new mayors get a two-week grace period, said Ward 2 Council member Jack Evans, chair of the Finance and Revenue Committee. Why so many performance hearings that are followed immediately by budget hearings going over the same territory? “Because we’ve always done it this way,” Evans laughed.

■ This isn’t encrypted. We had an interesting response to our item last week on how police and fire departments are “encrypting” radio transmissions so that terrorists, homegrown bad guys and the media can hear what’s going on.

Lee Williams, a 39-year law enforcement person with 45 years as a monitor of public safety radio, questioned the need to shut the public out. “As [encryption] spreads across our country, it promotes the ‘us-against-them’ mentality and does absolutely nothing to promote officer safety,” he wrote.

Mr. Williams suggested that we “make [our] argument” more about leaving the dispatch channel open while other tactical channels could be encrypted for secure communications. He said that none of the fire channels need be encrypted “except for mutual aid channels.” Consider his recommendations fertile ground for the securicrats.

■ Bureaucratic-speak. You may want to use the next two items as sleep-aids. Again, last week we highlighted the uber-bureaucratic word “interoperability.” All that means is having a way for diverse groups to communicate. But it prompted some other examples of bureaucratic-speak.

Word for word, from a D.C. Public Service Commission order: “The Commission’s second January 22 Order was in response to Pepco/DDOT’s Application for Clarification or, in the Alternative,

Reconsideration of the Commission’s Triennial Plan Order. In that Order, the Commission clarified its Triennial Plan Order by stating (1) the Undergrounding Project Consumer Education Task Force (‘UPCE Task Force’) will replace the Communications Coordination Committee and Consumer Advisory Group originally proposed in Pepco/DDOT’s joint communication/education plan; (2) the initial meeting of the UPCE Task Force may take place sometime between the second and third quarters of this calendar year (instead of by January 12 of this year, as the Commission initially directed in its Triennial Plan Order); (3) the UPCE Task Force members must be selected through the District’s formalized process; (4) Pepco/DDOT can submit their final construction/design plans pursuant to the detailed schedule they will submit on February 11, 2015 when they file their list of estimated start and end dates for each of the Triennial Plan projects; and (5) Pepco’s forthcoming February 11, 2015 filing must also include a schedule detailing the installation of smart-grid devices.”

And this, from a federal Homeland Security press release: “NPPD CS&C Stakeholder Engagement and Cyber Infrastructure Resilience Industry Engagement & Resilience Director will deliver remarks on the implementation of the National Institute of Standards and Technology Cybersecurity Framework and the Critical Infrastructure Cyber Community Voluntary Program at the Professional Risk Managers’ International Association, Washington D.C. Chapter and George Washington University joint event.”

Having wallowed in bureaucracy, please carry on.

Tom Sherwood, a Southwest resident, is a political reporter for News 4.

Contact Us