Monday, May 21, 2007

I'll Have My Chief of Staff Call Your Chief of Staff's Chief of Staff

When I interned at a dotcom, I jokingly referred to myself as "Vice President of QA." I really was second in charge of QA, the joke of course being that our company was slightly over a dozen people, with only half of them on the development side, so being VP of that less-than-illustrious task made the the bottom man of a six-person ladder. Giving yourself an important-sounding title that you don't deserve (or "marketing") is funny when you're eighteen and not getting paid. In fact, I'd say it's an intern's prerogative. I obviously never considered putting my tongue-and-cheek description of my summer's work on a resume.

But there comes a point, let's say at the cabinet level, when titles like that are taken rather seriously. And the people who hold them take themselves far too seriously. And the cost to taxpayers (and I don't mean that in a strictly monetary sense) of having unnecessary VPs of QA dulls the humor. This is what we call "ridiculous."

Al Kamen
breaks it down like so:

It appears that the first Cabinet-level chief of staff showed up at the Department of Health and Human Services in 1981, Light said. The secretary, former Pennsylvania senator Richard Schweiker, recalled that he had long heard of the difficulties of getting things done in big agencies. So he picked his longtime aide on the Hill, David Newhall, and gave him the chief-of-staff title so he would have the power to steer things through an oft-clogged bureaucracy.

From that humble beginning, the chief-of-staff position quickly metastasized so that every Cabinet member now has a chief of staff.

There are 14 Cabinet department chiefs of staff, and 13 of those have deputy chiefs. There are seven chiefs of staff to undersecretaries. There are 10 departments with chiefs of staff to an assistant secretary, and four of those have a deputy chief of staff.

And of the original goal of streamlining the bureaucracy?

The road to hell, my friend...

Read the whole article. There's some stuff about how although the Chiefs used to be appointed by their respective secretaries, they now undergo a vetting from Bush to make sure their loyalty is with the Prez, not necessarily their boss. Cronyistic and Big-brotherish. Too depressing to write about now.

Note: this manifestation of out-of-control bureaucracy began and blossomed under Reagan. Eat it, Norquist!