Monday, September 30, 2013

Employee says 'Fire me,' eliminate regional development agency for Alaska

With lawmakers debating how to cut the federal budget, one federal employee has part of the solution, saying he should be fired and his agency shut down

In a letter to Congress and The Washington Post, Mike Marsh, the inspector general for the Denali Commission, wrote: “I have concluded that (my agency) is a congressional experiment that hasn’t worked out in practice. I recommend that Congress put its money elsewhere.” Last year, its base appropriation from Congress was about $10.6 million, reports David Fahrenthold for the Post.

The agency is designed to help rural Alaskans by building power plants, offering job training and improving health care. It is modeled after the Appalachian Regional Commission and the Delta Regional Authority. One wonders if those rural-oriented agencies and their beneficiaries might not be a bit nervous about calls for Denali's abolition.

Marsh said the agency often builds projects — power plants or medical clinics — in tiny towns that won’t have the resources to keep them running, and he calls his agency an unnecessary middle man, saying the money should be sent directly to state or to tribal governments, Fahrenthold writes. The agency, though, "still funnels federal grants to projects in the state, with a staff of about 12. It still enjoys strong support from Alaska’s three-member congressional delegation, which fought presidential efforts to cut its funding. And the Alaska lawmakers have proposed a reauthorization measure designed to give the commission a lasting stream of funding."

It's not the first time a federal employee has openly tried to get fired and have his agency closed, Fahrenthold writes. "Old Washington hands could remember only two other federal workers who had lobbied publicly to have themselves defunded. One was a high-level Ronald Reagan appointee. One was a lowly weather observer. Both failed. Meaning they weren’t fired. Marsh seems likely to fail, too — even though his requests arrived in Washington in the middle of a battle to cut the budget. His agency seems protected by one of Washington’s most enduring customs: the defense of home-state giveaways, even in times of national austerity." (Read more) To read Marsh's letter, click here.

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