BBG Watch Commentary

Senior bureaucrats at the Voice of America (VOA) and the Broadcasting Board of Governors’ (BBG) International Broadcasting Bureau (IBB) have been able to hold on to their six-figure, full time government jobs, expand IBB bureaucratic and program support positions by close to 40 percent in the last seven years, and avoid any kind of management reforms and accountability by doing basically three things:

1. Eliminating broadcasts and other media outreach programs which the growing bureaucracy is supposed to manage and support;

2. Eliminating full-time journalistic and program producing jobs;

3. Hiring hundreds of poorly paid, abused and often poorly trained contractors in apparent violation of U.S. government laws and regulations.

The VOA management no longer knows who is producing the news and what is being produced, as seen by the VOA zombie Uncle Sam video for Pakistan and VOA map showing Crimea to be part of Russia. The management structure at VOA has collapsed. Hundreds of contractors hired in apparent violation of federal government laws and regulations work without proper guidance and supervision, but they are treated as full time employees except that they are underpaid and denied benefits and protections of employment. They are overused and abused in a shameful way by the VOA – IBB management.

Government Executive LogoIn the latest move to avoid taking responsibility for violations, described in an IRS audit and Office of Inspector General (OIG) audit, VOA and IBB senior management has outsourced the problem of contractors hired in violation of the Anti-Deficiency Act to two private firms, as reported by Charles S. Clark in Government Executive.

READ MORE: Broadcasting Board Outsources Controversial Newsroom Contracting, By Charles S. Clark, Government Executive, October 8, 2014.

Two comments have been posted so far (Oct. 10, 2014, 7:00 PM EDT) under the Government Executive article, but one generalization that full time employees (FTEs) at the Voice of America are not hard working and productive is not fair, in our view.

It is true that many senior staffers and so-called advisors do very little work and the work that they do often does much more damage than good. There are also some full time journalists making six-figure salaries who only produce a few reports per month, but the vast majority of full time VOA employees are highly dedicated and work very hard everyday with very little help and resources under dysfunctional and hostile management. Both full time employees and contract employees need better management and better leadership.

COMMENT FROM “IVAN” FOR GOVERNMENT EXECUTIVE ARTICLE: “The notion that contractors negotiated directly with BBG for their rates is largely false. Many (most?) contractors were told by dept. managers what their rate would be, without any negotiation. This is also illegal. [BBG Watch Disclaimer: we are not legal experts and therefore do not offer any legal analysis or advice. Please consult legal experts about any legal issues raised in this or other BBG Watch commentaries.]


The reason (language services aside) so many contractors are needed, is to offset the lack of production from FTE’s. It is a foregone conclusion that this agency would fail miserably if you reduced or removed the contracting force and left only the FTE’s.”

COMMENT FROM “CONCERNED BBGer” FOR GOVERNMENT EXECUTIVE ARTICLE: “So, federal bureaucrats violate civil service, federal acquisitions, labor, and tax laws, but the only ones to suffer any consequences are the contractors themselves?! Where’s the accountability?”

BBG Watch has also received these comments from someone claiming to be a former VOA contractor.

FORMER VOA CONTRACTOR COMMENT FOR BBG WATCH ARTICLE: I agree with all the criticism and thank BBG Watch for holding VOA accountable.

I freelanced for a few years recently. It was appalling. I have never seen so many overpaid, under-skilled “professionals” do so little. Most go the meetings and send emails.

Some of the reporters and writers and editors were competent. But the overall atmosphere was decidedly not mission oriented or focused.

David Ensor is completely detached from the day to day operations. That is clear from his public statements. He is either incompetent or being advised very poorly.

I was shocked at the chaos and the refusal of mgt. to take responsibility for very poor work.

The phrase I always heard was “don’t worry about slacking off. They don’t fire anyone here — unless you mess with your time and attendance.”

My jaw dropped. I asked this staffer, “so I can come in on time and do little to no work, or very shoddy work and that’s ok?” The staffer said yes. As long as I sign in and out honestly.

I left not long after that.


No, the mgt appears not to care about the daily butchering of the English language and unskilled story placement.

They been told by their underlings many times — and begged to please act. That would mean removing unskilled staffers.

They won’t do it. Nor will they come down on staffers who have illustrated for years that they are incompetent.

Don’t want to make the tough calls that are normal operating procedure in a real newsroom. Don’t want to piss off a staffer and end up with a grievance.

In short, they don’t care about the product.

READ MORE: Waste and Abuse of Power at the Broadcasting Board of Governors, According to Audit, By Reid Standish, Foreign Policy Blog, June 17, 2014.

ALSO READ: Voice of America wasted estimated millions on improper contract payments, Radio Free Asia gets clean bill of health, BBG Watch, May 3, 2014.

ALSO READ: IBB – BBG Debacles – Legal by Jane Doe, BBG Watch, June 16, 2014.

Audit of the Broadcasting Board of Governors Administration and Oversight of Acquisition Functions

OIG BBG Audit April 2014