4753 Whitehaven Parkway, N. W.

Washington, D. C. 20007



A Private Report to Industry on Electronic Procurement


Federal 7‑1027


"Mr. Wonderful ..."



He lives in a $19,500 house ($1500 down).  If he doesn't ride to work on a bus, he is in a car pool with an average 3.4 riders, 2.1 of whom he hates.  As a government engineer, his length of service has elevated him to the lofty position of Grade 11 in spite of a relatively poor technical competence.  Working in a temporary building on a permanent job, his future in mediocrity is secure.  Secretly, he covets the title of Marketing Manager although he knows he will never be one.  He is smart enough to realize that outside the warmth and anonymity of Civil Service he wouldn't last two furlongs.  This is the average engineer.  We are not discussing the elite, sophisticated, money grabbing dough‑boy who works inside the Pentagon to serve Myfriend Electronics until the ultimate day he can "retire" from government "service" to work openly in the Myfriend Washington Office at $50,000 a year.  The average guy can be observed entering the front door of his office building in the morning carrying a brown paper bag which contains two peanut‑butter sandwiches as insurance against the unlikely prospect that he will not be invited out to lunch.  Thus, you can see a kind of poor Jackie Gleason running as fast as his fat little legs will carry him so he shouldn't be late for work.  But once he sits at his desk, a colossal metamorphosis takes place.  As he picks up the telephone, he is wrapped in the mantle of authority as he becomes an Official official.  He is suddenly transformed right before his very eyes, not into a Civil Servant, but into a super‑being who is The United States Government.  But it's more than that.  He becomes an absolute Dictator in an industry which must reckon with him.  The military officer "In‑Charge" and the "Secretary" are only transients who rarely know a transistor from an ambient temperature, none of whom are qualified to challenge anything more complex than a bread‑box.  If the engineer says it's urgent, it's urgent!  If he says sole‑source, it is.  Like dominoes, from the engineer up, everybody falls down.  Obviously, to curry favor with the engineer is important to the industry because this one individual absolutely controls multi‑million dollar contracts which are awarded (or withheld) in accordance with regulations which he can quote by rote, "interpreting" either for or against any subject in either direction.  At home, he drinks beer or a blended whiskey ($3.29 a fifth), but at lunch in the uptown restaurants where he is the guest an average of 4.6 days each week, he orders Bonded Bourbon with ginger‑ale, or sometimes a whiskey sour (the first of which he invariably sends back to the bar because it was "too" something or other).  He is an insulter of women and a bad drunk, but those who seek his favor keep him in the company of women who are paid to be insulted, and upstairs in a hotel suite, out of the public eye, when he gets bad.  The cumulative results of his sole‑source deals have cost the taxpayers literally zillions of dollars more than was anywhere like necessary, and this is the very reason why the current pay scale for Federal employees should be doubled.  To get the best, you have to pay for it with dollars.  The worst engineer in the electronic industry would never have allowed the AN/PRC‑25 to cost the taxpayers over $2000 (no matter what he smoked), and the dumbest clod in Kansas would never let the IM‑108 be re‑ordered five times when it never worked the first time, or set the stage to repeat the fumble in ordering 19,635 units of the AN/PRC‑77 before the production unit had been completely tested and approved.  To work in the Pentagon, you are supposed to be so honored with honor, you forget the low pay scale, and so you will always find a poor but dishonest angle‑shooting dough‑boy on the firing line.  The Presidential elections will bring us a new broom next November, but it will get stuck in the same old closet.  If the average weight of the men on our football team is only 93 pounds, the services of a new coach won't change the score one iota.