BBG Watch Commentary

AFGE Local 1812The union representing Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG) employees responded to an attack on the union and BBG member Ambassador Victor Ashe posted online by someone who appears to be an official of the International Broadcasting Bureau (IBB), the bureaucratic arm of the federal agency in charge of U.S. international broadcasting.

In an article posted on its website, the American Federation of Government Employees, AFGE Local 1812, wrote that “a culture of intimidation is alive and well within the International Broadcasting Bureau.”

“The unaccountable bureaucrats within the Agency not only try to intimidate those who are charged with overseeing them but also even those who attempt to hold them accountable in the Press. There may be no barriers as to whom they will attempt to smear and intimidate.”


by American Federation of Government Employees, AFGE Local 1812

Recently, Helle Dale of the Heritage Foundation published an article entitled: U.S. Broadcasting Affected by Obama Administration Culture of Intimidation.

The union thought Ms. Dale’s article regarding the appointment of BBG Governor Victor Ashe was quite good and accurate. Ms. Dale writes that “employees of Voice of America… could lose one of their few remaining and most effective champions.” Governor Ashe has certainly been a champion of allowing all voices to be heard, including those of the union, and has championed those who had no voice at all – the contract workers. Ms. Dale also states:

“Terminating Victor Ashe’s appointment would be a real loss for the Agency’s mission and its employees.” We’ll second that. She continues: “Despite being singled out as a troublemaker by the State Department’s IG, he has been an outspoken activist determined to resolve long-term problems, improve morale and obtain necessary resources.” The union disputed State’s IG report in a column back in February calling it a hatchet job, which it was. And yes, the union agrees that Governor Ashe has done much to improve morale and obtain necessary resources.

Scrolling down to the comments to Ms. Dale’s article, we were amazed to read a frenzied indictment of Governor Ashe which included a baseless personal attack on Ms. Dale by someone using the pseudonym Penny. Assailing those who disagree with IBB officials, Penny states:

“Ashe the Morale Booster? He is indeed wildly popular with the Voice of America’s rigid unions, which oppose all sensible and necessary reforms, because he champions saving their jobs over fixing international broadcasting.”

First of all, yes, Governor Ashe has been a morale booster among employees who for years have been ignored by the suffocating bureaucracy in the Agency. Indeed, year after year, IBB managers are rated among the worst in the federal government in the OPM Human Capital survey. He has listened to the concerns of many within the Agency including the rank-and-file and their Union representatives, in contrast to those in the ranks of IBB management who rarely listen to the opinions of those who know and understand international broadcasting and the countries to which we broadcast, treating middle managers and broadcasters with equal disrespect and disdain. For reaching out to the employees and the contract workers and trying to resolve long-standing problems which were festering even prior to his appointment,

Governor Ashe has earned our respect. We wouldn’t go so far as saying that he is wildly popular as this would be more of a description of a rock star and not an executive of the federal government, former Chair of the Conference of Mayors and Ambassador to Poland. And calling the unions “rigid” is the proverbial pot calling the kettle black. In addition, contrary to Penny’s assertion, the unions have not opposed any sensible and necessary reforms in the Agency. Employees have embraced new technology and are successfully using it although swamped with the new duties and chronic understaffing. True rigidity of the most obnoxious kind is consistently exhibited by Agency management who rigidly follow a flawed strategic plan and refuse to implement decisions by Arbitrators, the courts, or the FLRA, showing constant disrespect for the rule of law while requiring its broadcasters to trumpet the rule of law to other countries.

Totally ludicrous is the statement of the mysterious Ms. Penny that Governor Ashe “champions saving their jobs over fixing international broadcasting”. It was the United States Congress which authorizes the funding for the Agency which, in no uncertain terms and in explicit language in its reports, stopped the cuts to international broadcasting proposed by the Executive Staff of the IBB every year since 2006.

Governor Ashe’s attitude toward our union was probably molded by his contacts with union and non-union workers alike over the years in his professional career. As the longest-serving mayor of Knoxville, Tennessee, Governor Ashe would have had to meet and confer with public sector unions and resolve not ignore employee concerns. And most important, during the time when he was Ambassador to Poland, Governor Ashe often met with the champion of union and non-union people alike, the hero Solidarity leader, Lech Walesa.

Although Penny seems to believe that Governor Ashe is somehow a disaster because he asks questions and takes his public service and accountability to the U.S. taxpayers seriously, the disaster for the U.S. taxpayers and U.S. national interests is that a rogue bureaucracy accountable to no one including the Congress squanders over three-quarters of a billion dollars a year while systematically destroying U.S. international broadcasting. As far as the culture of intimidation is concerned, that is certainly flourishing at the International Broadcasting Bureau and Ms. Penny, whoever he/she may be, is a prime example of why chaos rules in our Agency.

To read Helle Dale’s blog in The Foundry, see: