Fun with USG

For some reason, on Sunday, I found myself watching morning news shows, which I haven’t done in a long time.

Fox News Sunday had an interview with the Transportation Secretary about all the air-traffic controllers falling asleep. It’s fun to watch this stuff when you know what’s really going on.

Realize that this is a big deal for the Secretary’s staff. This is a pretty high profile interview and the agency is in a bad position. I imagine the staff developing a long list of possible questions that the Secretary will be asked, writing up all the answers, and then spending a long time going over the answers with the Secretary.

Here’s the transcript of the interview.

The secretary comes off as a reasonably likable guy.

This answer basically sums up all that’s wrong with modern USG:

We cannot allow controllers to fall asleep in control towers. We’re not going to stand by and let that happen. And we’ve taken steps, as of this morning, to begin changing schedules for controllers, to change schedules for managers, and to make sure that controllers cannot switch in and out of their schedules in order for the convenience of them if they are not well-rested.

But I also want to emphasize this, Chris — controllers need to take personal responsibility for the very important safety jobs that they have. We can make changes but when these controllers come to work, they have to take personal responsibility for the fact that they are guiding planes in and out of airports. It has to be done safely. They have to be well-rest and they have to be alert.

And we’ll take care of the fact they need to be well-trained. But they have to take some personal responsibility for this.

On one hand, the Secretary’s staff (via the Secretary) is saying that USG will make sure that controllers don’t fall asleep. On the other hand, they’re telling controllers to take personal responsibility. Sigh.

The staff has a plan to fix the problem:

Well, Chris, number one: we’re going to make sure that controllers are well-rested. We’re going to increase the rest time by an hour. This is what we’re recommending for pilots going from eight- hour rest to nine-hour rest. [This is what the time increase means: They [air traffic controllers] could work two evening shifts followed by an eight-hour turn-around


7 Responses to Fun with USG

  1. Handle says:

    Well, Chris, number one: we’re going to make sure that controllers know that if they are ever caught napping on the job, they will be immediately terminated, lose all their benefits, and never work for anything remotely connected to the government ever again. And the same goes for their supervisor. Also, should anything actually go wrong – it’s jail time. Hard time.

  2. dearieme says:

    The British Army was never very keen on executing its men – a kiss of the lash, sure; but not execution. An exception was made for falling asleep on watch. Not that they’d always execute a man, of course, but they reserved the right to.

    • Handle says:

      IIRC, the Romans would have the other men from a man’s unit do the execution for a Soldier falling asleep while on guard, because, after all, they would be the ones killed had the enemy infiltrated the perimeter.

      And then there’s always Patton:

      “There are four hundred neatly marked graves somewhere in Sicily”, he roared into the microphone, “All because one man went to sleep on the job”. He paused and the men grew silent. “But they are German graves, because we caught the bastard asleep before they did”.

  3. It’s fun to watch this stuff when you know what’s really going on.

    So what’s really going on? My guess: A) wage supression since Reagan’s firing and selectively lowered standards have driven down salaries as well as average controller quality; and B) contol centers have become smoke free zones.

  4. Kalim Kassam says:

    The talk of staff prepping the Secretary for the interview while the agency is “in a bad position” reminded me of the UK TV series The Thick of It. It’s like a Yes, Minister for the 21st century, and to me rang quite true to the workings at the top of a government department/ministry.

    Have you seen it Foseti? And do you agree with that assessment?

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