BBG Watch

A Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG) employee sent email to the two U.S. Senators from the employee’s state protesting against the proposed de-federalization of the Voice of America (VOA). The employee shared the letter with the BBG union, AFGE Local 1812. The union is urging its members to write similar letters to their Senators.

The Voice of America employee’s letter refers to “strong frustration and irritation with VOA mismanagement and upper managements inability to sufficiently correct significant issues.” It identifies the agency’s key problem as “inappropriate and inept management.”

The Voice of America employee urges U.S. Senators to reform “a poorly responding bureaucracy” instead of punishing “dedicated, professional, skillful, and talented journalists and technical artists” with de-federalization of America’s voice abroad.

AFGE Local 1812 has shown the letter as an image on its Facebook page to discourage copy and paste emails to lawmakers. We agree with the union on this point but feel that this important message from a Voice of America employee should be presented in a more readable and accessible form to BBG/VOA employees, BBG board members, members of Congress and American taxpayers.

AFGE Local 1812 Poster Against De-Federalization of VOA


Honorable…, U.S. Senator for… .
I am an employee of the Voice of America, as fiscal year 2016 will end, for fifteen years.
I learned the value of this broadcasting mission …
Since becoming a part of this mission in…, I have been a co-worker with some of the most dedicated, professional, skillful, and talented journalists and technical artists on this planet. I wish you could know them as I do. I am proud of, and humbled by, their efforts. I have also watched the parent organization, the Broadcasting Board of Governors and various management components, by their choices, move the Voice of America off-target, from a realistic and valuable mission to what I view as an effort that creates a … and, along the way, the BBG earns a new meaning for its acronym with regard to management performance and employee morale, Bottom of the Barrel in Government.
In my opinion, many of those elected to both houses of our federal legislature also believe in the VOA mission, and carry strong frustration and irritation with VOA mismanagement and upper management’s inability to sufficiently correct significant issues. Two reform bill versions were brought forward in recent years, taking aim at the problem: inappropriate and inept management where it exists. The two bills failed in part because of efforts, directly and indirectly, when some within this inappropriate management seek to preserve its continued existence by blaming others. Without an objective, in-depth review of various management component actions over the last twenty years, members of the legislature cannot intelligently know how and why the Voice of America has become so troubled.
In what I view as a political reaction to years of frustration and irritation with VOA management, a final hours amendment became a part of the House version of the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2017 that would authorize the formation of a non-profit entity to carry out the mission of the Voice of America and eliminate the federal positions of hundreds of dedicated VOA employees. [ Thornberry (R-TX) ]  
This is precisely the wrong approach for several reasons, the chief of which is the retention of significant portions of a poorly responding bureaucracy to oversee a new non-profit entity while eliminating a loyal, dedicated body that has strained so valiantly to succeed in spite of low morale and management blundering. How does this possibly make sense?
The Thornberry amendment also creates a situation where the authority to eliminate a meritorious Agency devolves to a single person in management. In the past, the Senate and Congress have found it necessary to step in with directives to BBG/IBB/VOA upper management in order that some major blunders would be halted before being carried out. This amendment would per-authorize management action without further review. In view of this Agency’s past judgment in certain matters, how does this possibly make sense?
And finally, consider multiple financial impacts. First, one does not have to look far to see that privatizing VOA segments results in increased cost to the taxpayer. Second, the economy of your constituents would be negatively impacted to a notable degree; hundreds of people put out of work, their curtailed spending affecting the business and employment of thousands more in their communities, the burden of unemployment benefits, and those few who may be hired into the new entity will receive much lower wages while taxpayers’ will have a higher bill to pay. How does any of this make sense?
I urge you to take sufficient action to ensure that this or any similar amendment is not a part of the final FY 2017 NDAA version before both houses, and encourage a return to the path to reforming upper BBG/IBB/VOA management based in thoughtful consideration.
Thank you for your consideration.
…., Voice of America