Bureaucrats to Adak
In the short amount of time since Donald J. Trump became president-elect of the United States, I have heard some talk to the effect that he could expect resistance from personnel of the various departments and agencies of the federal government. It has also been said that it is difficult, if not impossible, to remove civil service personnel, and some appointees, despite their obstructionism.
It is my understanding that the second article of the United States Constitution empowers the president to be the senior officer of the executive branch of the federal government. His authority within the second branch is not absolute, being limited by various political and legal restrictions.
To this problem, I may have a solution. For the time being, let's call it by one word: Adak. Permit me to explain.
I once attended the U.S. Navy Officer Candidate School. Several weeks before our graduation from OCS and commissioning as ensigns in the Naval Reserve, each of us received orders for our first assignments. I do remember that the Vietnam War was at its height at that time and none of us received orders to any garden spot on the globe. I was assigned as gunnery officer on an attack transport that had been built during World War II: its batteries consisted of several ancient 40 MM guns.
One of the O.C.s was given orders to the naval station at Adak, Alaska. Back in 1942 and 1943, when several of the Aleutian Islands were occupied by the Japanese, Adak, located at the base of the chain, was a defense post near the front lines. For the multitude of American and Canadian land, sea, and air military personnel who served in the Aleutian campaign during the war, that part of the world was certainly no playground. Almost every day, it seemed, was cold and damp. So when our fellow O.C. received orders to Adak, he suffered a nervous breakdown. He cried for three days, perhaps four.
Now, Adak was no luxurious assignment, and orders there were quite unwelcome. But orders were orders: they could not be refused. Refusal to report meant a court-martial. The exception was that someone in a position to resign from the service could do so instead. To such personnel, the Navy's position was, “Go to Adak, or get out.”
I suggest that civilian agencies of the federal government could be directed to adopt a personnel management strategy of “Go to Adak, or get out.” To the best of my knowledge, no employee of the federal government is guaranteed a permanent position at a single location. The agency or department has legitimate authority to relocate its personnel as it deems appropriate. In the military, the appropriate paperwork is known as Permanent Change of Station, or PCS, orders.
One can obviously say there is only one Adak, and if all of the obstructionist personnel from every federal department and agency were to be sent to Adak, there would be no room left for the seals who go ashore on the islands for purposes of procreation every once in a while.
But if we use the word “Adak” in a generic sense to designate any location, domestic or foreign, that is totally unattractive for the personnel assigned, there must be hundreds of actual Adaks, locations in the deserts, jungles, or tundras of the world. If no such “Adaks” currently exist, it will be necessary to invent them.
The bottom line is that if federal government personnel obstruct in any way the execution of policies implemented by the White House under President Trump, a day or two later, they could receive in their inbox a sealed envelope containing PCS orders for assignment to Adak.
One way of reducing the bloated federal budget would be, simply, not to replace any of the personnel taking the choice to get out rather than report to Adak.
I would guess that a new chief executive on the job might find such a policy could encounter some rather negative publicity. Being told to “go to Adak or get out” would create bushel baskets of copy for the media. Just remember the sob stories about National Parks personnel laid off for a day or two of the latest budget government shutdown. Trump strikes me, though, as somebody who would simply not give a damn.