AFGE Local 1812, the union representing employees at the Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG) expects that leaders running the agency, including the International Broadcasting Bureau (IBB) director Richard Lobo and the Voice of America director David Ensor, will once again propose cuts to broadcasting services and program-producing rank-and-file personnel while protecting the jobs of the executive staff. Director Lobo is also likely to approve high bonuses for his executive staff, conveniently forgetting that his agency is the worst-run in the Federal Government.
Now that the holidays are over and the celebrating is done, the employees at the Voice of America are hunkered down awaiting the annual bloodletting proposals that the Agency’s upper management inflicts upon them. Like clockwork. Almost every February, just like the proverbial groundhog popping out in Punxsutawney PA, come the dire pronouncements from the Agency. It has become an annual ritual for the past decade or so.
There is usually a preamble before the ax falls: In solemn tones, the IBB Director and the VOA Director announce how much they appreciate the work that VOA employees have done and the importance of the work of certain language services. Then, there will be the usual disclaimer that these “hard” decisions are no reflection on the employees but that these decisions are strictly a result of budgetary realities (even though the BBG budget has almost always gone up every year since 2001 and now stands at 3/4 of a billion dollars). The Directors will then proceed to announce which language services they plan to eliminate or reduce and how many people are likely to lose their jobs. In the twinkling of an eye, these same employees, who just the day before the announcement, were so vital to the Agency that they were designated as emergency employees and expected to risk life and limb to report to work during emergencies now by fiat become suddenly and completely expendable. Of course, always exempted from the annual bloodletting ritual are the members of the Agency SES corps whose highly-paid, richly-rewarded with annual bonuses cadres, are solely responsible (in the opinion of the majority of the rank-and-file) for directing U.S. international broadcasting into oblivion.
So here at the VOA there are a lot of anxious employees awaiting this annual ritual. They write, do interviews, multi-task combining radio, TV, social media waiting for the proverbial ax to fall. After the announcement, some will experience the shock of potentially losing their livelihood and of losing the ability to reach hearts and minds in distant parts of the globe. Those spared will feel a sense of relief mixed with empathy for their not-so-lucky fellow employees. Then they will wonder if it will be their turn next year.
Such is life in the worst-run agency in the Federal Government.