Technology is the perfect dodge for federal employees
© Think Stock

Ever try to get a U.S. federal government employee on the phone? Ever try to email them? How about trying to find out who is responsible for what? Good luck.

Technology has become the perfect dodge for federal officials on all levels to be unresponsive and thus unaccountable to the people. No one answers his or her phones. Agencies force inquiries by the public to go to common emails so that the agency can then farm it out to the person of their choosing on their own timetable.

Voicemail is another dodge and is the perfect vehicle by which employees can screen calls, ignore calls or reply to calls whenever they feel like it – if at all. Many federal employees have told me that they never answer the phone even when they are at their desks. They say that if a superior needs them then the boss will email them or instant message them or call their cell phone.

ADVERTISEMENT

The most frustrating of all is that the U.S. government executive branch does not have a uniform template for home pages of agencies for their Internet websites. This makes navigation unique and different for all departments. If federal bureaucracies website homepages were uniform it would make it user friendly and seamless when navigating from one department to the next. All websites should look the same and use the same navigation prompts and tools.

 

Every U.S. Government website on its home page should provide the following information:

  1. Organization chart – This would be helpful to understand who is responsible for what in name and title and who reports to whom;
  2. Staff Directory – That lists the name, title, responsibility, brief bio and contact information;
  3. Contact information – Complete list of departments with accurate office numbers and emails.

The federal government’s sole purpose is to serve the people and yet their main emphasis has been to avoid us – using the very technology they claim makes them more efficient to

Thwart, delay and confuse any attempts to contact them in real time.

The dodging of citizens is not by accident it is by design by the senior management of cabinet and subcabinet departments. Their complicity in insulating their employees from the people they are sworn to serve has provided a culture of contempt by civil servants for the citizens.

When I questioned one senior manager about the insular nature that government has become she had the audacity to blame it on “security”. I have had it with the knee jerk reaction to every government rule or regulation or practice as being necessary in light of 9/11 or “we are still at war”, etc. That dog don’t hunt.

If you have any doubt to what I am alleging then I urge you to visit any Cabinet or Sub Cabinet website and try to navigate seamlessly with regard to who is in charge of what and how you would contact them.

The fact is that the information I suggest be available to the public available to the public through private sector businesses like “Leadership Directories”. This is what they advertise at a cost of the annual fee of $595.00:

  • Federal Government Premium is an online federal government contact directory of over 110,000 people working for you in the Federal Government
  • Updated daily, the federal government directory provides the most up-to-date federal government phone numbers, federal government email addresses, and staff changes available.
  • Delve into the online federal government contact directory's interactive org charts and search every part of the federal government, including over 1,000 federal programs

So, in order for a person to get the kind of information they should be entitled to as a matter of right by the government agency they are seeking information one must pay a fee to a non-government business to cut through the technology cloak that shields them. This makes no sense and is an affront to every taxpayer.

The fact is that Congress is no better. They need to be open and transparent with their websites and most especially who does what and how they can be contacted.

Every American should demand their government change the way they do business and use technology to make government more accessible rather than less. The culture must also change within government to insure employees that serve the public make themselves apparent, reachable and accountable to the citizenry.

There is no doubt in my mind that a government more responsive to the people is one that is more efficient, transparent, and effective.

I urge the Trump Administration to make transparency and efficiency in the Executive Branch a priority and start with a complete overhaul and redesign of official websites. 

Bradley A. Blakeman is professor of public policy, politics and international affairs at Georgetown University's School of Continuing Studies and was a member of President George W. Bush's senior White House staff from 2001 to 2004. He is also a frequent contributor to Fox News and Fox Business Channel.


The views expressed by contributors are their own and are not the views of The Hill.