December 24, 2012

Government jobs and veterans preferences: the military-governmental complex

Foseti, who has a nice job with the federal government in D.C., writes how to think about pay for government jobs here

In passing, he mentions how important being a veteran has become for your chance of getting hired by the federal government. This is a topic that's really off the usual radars, but strikes me as having sizable implications that I haven't seen explored anywhere. It's a little bit like how in Canada, the really good government jobs are reserved for people who are fluent in both French and English, which has had all sorts of effects on politics and culture.

One tiny aspect of this is that it makes Washington Redskins rookie quarterback Robert Griffin III, who was a military kid growing up (both parents were sergeants) and has the kind of well-spoken, respectful aspect common among military caste African-Americans, well-suited for a career in D.C. Just as Magic Johnson was perfectly suited for L.A., Griffin seems perfect for a metropolitan area where a surprisingly high percentage of the male fans who can afford NFL season tickets have a military background. It's very hard staying on top as a quarterback in the NFL, but if Griffin can perform on the field, he's got it made as the face off the field in the D.C. metro area.

44 comments:

Anonymous said...

These days you pretty much have to be a vet to get most federal jobs. Black disabled female won't even cut it.

On the other hand it was easy in my industry (law) to get federal jobs back in the mid 2000s. Pay was far below the private sector, indeed for a while thousands of first year lawyers were making more than the Chief Justice, 160 to start plus 35 in guaranteed bonus. Now these people have mostly been laid off, making under 100 despite long hours, and would kill for a stable federal government job.

Anonymous said...

I know a non-vet who works for a gov contractor in the DC area. He says a lot of contractors hire vets to basically do nothing or act as a public face. His building is mostly gov and defense contractors and he says he sees vets in Bentleys, Mercedes, and other high end luxury vehicles in the parking garage.

Chuck Ross said...

Interesting. I'd add though that there is a lot of bureaucratic churn in DC so that might prevent him from becoming a Terry Bradshaw, Staunch, Montana, or Brady.

beta_plus said...

"Service Guarantees Citizenship. Would you like to know more?"

I don't have too much of a problem with veterans getting preference. Given the nature of government work, having a sense of duty would be a nice thing to have since it's harder to fire people for non-performance and harder to judge performance since making a profit is not a metric.

Anonymous said...

I grew up in Canada, and it was absolutely true that federal government jobs went to the bilingual speakers. Since a very small percentage of Canadians outside of Quebec speak French (3% when I lived there), the net effect was to give government jobs to Quebecois and rich Toronto kids whose parents sent them to SWPL French-immersion schools.

Anonymous said...

It is mostly non jews that take advantage of the loophole that gives benefits to veterans

ironrailsironweights said...

It's a little bit like how in Canada, the really good government jobs are reserved for people who are fluent in both French and English, which has had all sorts of effects on politics and culture.

There is a difference. It's not necessarily a big obstacle for a Canadian to learn French* in order to get a chance at a decent government job. It is, however, rather unreasonable to expect an American to join the military just to get a leg up in the competition for government jobs.

* = or English, though I suppose that most of Canada's French-speakers already are bilingual.

Peter

anony-mouse said...

There seems to be a feeling here that it would be best if all jobs in society were filled by the most competent. But I can imagine a lot of jobs where society would be better off if they were done by nincompoops.

And I suspect that a lot of those jobs are in government (academia and law would be two others)

Dave in Seattle said...

During my brief career with the federal gov. my boss told me that it was nearly impossible not to hire a veteran when posting openings and rather than hire someone who couldn't do the job (Labor Investigator), which required good writing and accounting skills they would just withdraw the announcement because once hired it's impossible to get rid of the employee and they didn't want to take the chance and be stuck with a dud for 30 years. The only way around it and the way I was hired was through the Peace Corps which gives returning volunteers a one year preference in federal hiring. I remember some of the volunteers I was with and this was the main reason for joining the Peace Corps, they wanted to get on full time as rangers with Fish and Wildlife or the Parks service and it was otherwise impossible without a PC or veterans preference. I think with the PC preference agencies were allowed to go outside of the normal hiring process. The DOL seemed to use this a lot.

Anonymous said...

I'm a vet, and I can't say I've found it helpful in terms of getting work. In fact it may even be a negative factor in certain environments, such as if you're looking for work in certain very liberal cities (NYC) or certain liberal dominated occupations, such as IT. In these circles a military background is almost like being a felon. I leave my military service off my resume for the most part.

It may help a little in terms of government jobs though.

Anonymous said...

Maryse Oulett the former and possibly soon to be WWE sports entertainer was quite a late learner of English. She managed. Shows what you can do if you put the effort in.

Anonymous said...

It doesn't "help a little" it is now basically required.

I do not have a big issue with this since I am doing just fine in the private sector as a WM. Better than the normal AA.

High end finance type jobs don't have issues with vets per se, just any prole type job. They would not hire gay nightclub promoter either even though they'd be pretty obviously a liberal. In California it might be more an issue, we all tend to be pot smoking irreligious types. Libertarians are thus OK if weird. Maybe volunteer for a lefty cause to offset the bombing Arabs part of your résumé.

Hard to believe you have issues finding work in IT. 0 of my GF's buddies at UCLA's CS program had trouble finding work, many had multiple 100k offers right out of UG. She was not even a major, just did well in a few intro classes, and got a 70k offer at the first place she interviewed at: a defense contractor designing drone software.

Anonymous said...

The problem of diversity-truth paradox.

Since there are many faces of truth, one would think more different kinds of voices would lead to more truth... and this is true to some extent. It's always good to hear different views and opinions.

But diversity of views in a single setting can undermine truth for the simple fact that we are not just rational, empirical, and fact-seeking beings but emotional beings. Generally, we don't wanna give offense to other people, and that means diversity leads to people not saying stuff they might say otherwise in a more homogeneous environment.

If I'm with white people with similar values, I'd feel free to honestly speak about blacks, Jews, yellows, browns, illegals, gays, and etc. But if a non-white were in the room, I might not say a lot of stuff--even if true--because it might give offense.

If you talk about Jews beating up on Palestinians in the presence of Jews, Jews get upset.
If you talk about Muslim terrorism in the presence of Muslims, Muslims get upset.
If you talk about black crime in front of blacks, blacks get upset.
If you talk about how fairyish gays are in the presence of gays, they'll be upset.
If you talk about dogeating in the presence of Asians, they get upset.
If you talk about problems of Mexican illegalism, Mexicans get upset.

So, even though diversity means more different kinds of voices, a lot of voices are muffled because no one wants to give offense when different peoples are brought together.
So, diversity offers more voices but muzzles them--unless the target happens to be the 'evil, racist, patriarchal, homophobic, fascist, sexist, xenophobic, noxious, odious, toxic, poisonous, rabid, virulent, and etc' white guy. White guy is the generic target on which all the problems of the world is blamed, the scapegoat.

So, if blacks and browns fight, blame the white goy. We are told it's white privilege that is forcing blacks and browns to fight for crumbs.
If blacks beat up gays, white goy is blamed for creating a culture of 'homophobia' that unfortunately came to infect blacks as well.
If blacks loot Arab-American stores, we are told that white oppression had led blacks to strike out at another minority group--and that white 'Islamophobia' has made blacks hate Muslims, even though most anti-Muslim movies are made by Jewish Hollywood.

More truth is spoken by blacks among blacks, whites among whites, Jews among jews, and browns among browns. By 'truth', I don't necessarily mean factual truth but honest truth.

In the past, whites used to speak honest truth at least among themselves, but even that seems to be fading away as white people have been brainwashed internally. In the 70s and 80s, it used to be okay to say racial epithets--for fun--with even white liberal friends, but if you make fun of MLK today even with conservative whites, they get all upset.

Anonymous said...

Current fed employee, veteran paratrooper, and I have six years experience in law enforcement. Passed over for a position with the Forest Service as a Law Enforcement Ranger for a 22 y/o latina with a Criminal Justice bachelors.

So I'm wondering where this guy is getting his info from.

Anonymous said...

Not all of what foseti posts is info, some of it is just pretty lies that support the views of his fanbase.

SF said...

As a retired fed, I believe veteran's preference added 5 points to your score for getting your first job, but theoretically counted for nothing for promotions. In the case of layoffs, which hardly ever happen, veterans are in a separate group, basically untouchable unless there is a really massive cutback. This caused a lot of issues when the forest service was under a consent decree to hire more women.

Anonymous said...

Current fed employee, veteran paratrooper, and I have six years experience in law enforcement. Passed over for a position with the Forest Service as a Law Enforcement Ranger for a 22 y/o latina with a Criminal Justice bachelors.

So I'm wondering where this guy is getting his info from.


How do you know who you got passed over for? Maybe she was a veteran, too.

Mr. Anon said...

I don't know which federal government this guy works for. I haven't seen too many veterans hired in the agency I work for - most of the new hires I have seen have been hispanics (and I was given to understand that this was a deliberate policy).

Anonymous said...

Black guys who can show up on time (more or less) and talk like a regular white person have it made in DC regardless.

Anonymous said...

"I do not have a big issue with this since I am doing just fine in the private sector as a WM"


I'm all right Jack.

Truth said...

It's absolutely true. Government hiring is done on a point scale, usually 100, and veterans are given points right off the bat. Four years of service, no wartime and no injury is usually 10 points for most jobs, and it goes up from there to retiree with combat service and injury. It's almost impossible to pass someone like that up for a job regardless of their qualifications.

Anonymous said...

The military is an arm of the government. "Government-government complex" makes no sense terminologically.

Anonymous said...

To Anonymous @ 12/24/12 8:01 PM:

Because I called the Patrol Captain in charge and asked what I could do, as a GS-12, to be more competitive for a GS-9 Nat Resources LEO position, and he told me I was his choice but in the Forest Service HR in DC makes all the choices.

Maybe she was a veteran...

Oh, so you're a concern troll. I see. No sorry, even if this 'wise latina' was a veteran I should have had the job on experience, all things being equal.

Thinking Housewife has some great pieces on how the Forest Service went from fighting fires to being a diversity hire outfit, to its total detriment.

Right now Native Americans are all the rage in hiring in the federal world, from what I've heard. That and knowing someone on the inside.

Le Mans said...

What has changed in the last few years is

1. Government jobs have gotten a lot more desirable compared to private sector opportunities (or lack thereof). The government has become a much bigger portion of the US economy, manufacturing jobs have gone away, and private service sector jobs are going too.

2. There are a lot more veterans who qualify for preference, and who qualify for any given job.
Remember, veterans preference only applies to veterans who served in a war. If you were a hard core Army Ranger or Marine Recon, or submariner from 1975 to 1989, or from 1992 - 2001, you probably don't have preference.

Anyone serving since 9/11 get vets preference. The Iraq/Afghanistan has been going on longer than Vietnam. And unlike Vietnam (eg GW Bush), most Guard and Reserve units also served long (qualifying) tours.

And todays vets are more qualified than in the past. Previous wars included lots of draftees, including many high school drop outs and the left end of the bell curve. Now the members of an average infantry platoon, not to mention other specialized units, are well above average achievers compared to the US average.

But like everything, there are a number of ways around veteran preference and significant motivation and energy devoted to it. As Steve has said - it's the Age of the Fine Print. There are various 'pathways' for non-vets, not just the Peace Corps.

For example 'scientific' and 'professional' positions at GS-9 (it goes up to GS-15) and above provide only minimal veterans preference (5 points out of 100 added to score, but not required to pick a qualified veteran.) Senior Executive Service jobs (above GS-15) have no preference, and political appointee jobs ('excepted service') have no preference.
Those three categories include a very large proportion of Fed Govt jobs, including most high paying ones.

Remember, it is also to the benefit of Govt employees and their children/friends etc, for everyone else to believe that there is no way to get a govt job, so why bother trying.

Sid said...

America is lucky, insofar that civilians have usually held a tight grip over the military. I'm sure there are numerous examples of military insubordination in US history, but ultimately, Washington subordinated himself to the Continental Congress during the Revolutionary War, and Truman fired MacArthur.

For this reason, the huge presence of military vets in federal civilian posts is not, presently, a huge cause for worry. But since the social fabric of America seems to get torn ever more each year, in 20-30 years, who knows?

Steve Sailer said...

A very large fraction of veterans coming out of the military these days have seen the elephant, which wasn't true for my generation.

Steve Sailer said...

For example, my cousin was a "Vietnam Era Vet," but he spent the Tet Offensive typing in Venice, Italy. Now, though, it seems like most vets have done a few tours in Iraq and/or Afghanistan, which, I've been told, aren't much like Venice.

Steve Sailer said...

To be clear, my cousin is about a dozen years older than me -- I come from the lucky generation that was too young for Vietnam. I can't think of anybody I was in school with who ever saw any combat, other than a couple of pilots at B-school.

Cail Corishev said...

When I worked for the post office, veterans got a big points boost on the qualifying test. You didn't have to be one to get hired (I wasn't), but if you were one, you would have to be very unqualified to be unable to pass the test with the bonus points.

I'd imagine that there is a growing battle over the spoils of government jobs, between the traditional "hire veterans" way of doing things and the modern "hire non-whites" imperative. Obviously government is hiring a lot of non-vet non-whites. But if you're white and not a veteran, your chances of being hired are probably pretty slim.

In my case with the post office, they were opening a new facility in my town and hiring everyone who could type reasonably well, so it wasn't competitive. Had there been enough vets and non-whites who could type to fill all the positions, they would have beaten me for the job no matter what I did.

Le Mans said...

Foseti's example in the comments illustrates, but he doesn't point it out, that the biggest preference of all is for those with 'status', ie. current -and former!- civilian federal employees with 'permanent' or 'career' status. Military service members (who are also 'federal employees' and most are also 'career') do not receive 'status', only civilians do. Even preference eligible veterans without 'status' lose out to those who have it. And 'status' for fed employees is for life, even after they leave for the private sector.

Anonymous said...

A very large fraction of veterans coming out of the military these days have seen the elephant, which wasn't true for my generation.

I'm active duty Army and what you said is somewhat true.

During the early years of the wars('02-'04) , it's absolutely true that everyone who deployed had it rough. But, the Army noticed that certain units were taking heavier casualties than others, namely National Guard, Reserve, and non-combat arms units.

Apparently, insurgents figured out what type of units were responsible for which areas. It's believed that they figured this out just from simple observation and analysis. All conventional units wear a unit patch, which can easily be deciphered using google. They didn't want to go toe-to-toe with our active duty combat units.

Since about 2006, non-combat personnel are rarely even allowed to go outside of the wire. In Afghanistan, there are literally thousands of Soldiers who sit on their asses in air-conditioned/heated offices on well-fortified bases for the entire year of their deployment. That is why our casualty rate is not as high as it was in '03-'05, despite the bigger presence.

The situation for combat job specialties and units isn't as rosy. Some of them may only get one hot shower and one hot meal a month. Many of these men spend weeks at a time, outside of the wire. They conduct personal hygiene with wet knaps.

The two biggest groups that suffer PTSD are younger Medics from seeing too much, too many times and senior combat arms guys from guilt complex when someone under them dies or gets maimed.

It drives me crazy when a fobbit (someone who never goes outside of the wire. We call bases, FOBs Forward Operating Base) acts like a hero. Yes, it is a sacrifice to be apart from your family, but fobbits have daily access to the internet, hot meals, showers, phones, and ice cream.

Anyways, enough of my ranting, but just to be clear, fobbits make up the majority of the deployments today.

Le Mans said...

Oh, and what great thing do you have to do to get 'status'. Just spend three years as a 'career' aka permanent aka tenured, federal employee.

Dave in Seattle said...

Bottom line is that hiring by the feds is ridiculously complicated and expensive. Of course that's not a bug it's a feature of the system. And as someone noted, it keeps a lot of people from even applying. I'm sure there are thousands of dedicated, intelligent veterans who look at all of the paper work, forms and fine print and say f*** it. Again not a bug but a feature.

When my mother graduated from college in the early 60's you took a federal civil service exam and based on your score you were told which jobs you qualified for and where the openings were. I think the agencies had to hire the top scoring candidates for those positions. This was before disparate impact, AA and all the other wonders of our rainbow nation.

Back then federal employment, at least in the Seattle area wasn't considered all that great. You were taking stability and security over pay. A blue collar Boeing employee made more money, had better benefits than a GS 11 or 12. And it seemed that Boeing was always hiring except during the big down turns.

My very limited experience with the federal behemoth was that most of our work was completely useless from the taxpayer's perspective despite the fact that all of my colleagues were intelligent and dedicated. The agency I worked for should have been eliminated or cut back severely because the work we were supposed to be doing didn't really exist. Yet we were always busy - writing reports about previous reports that got filed away, never to be read. Anyhow, not the way a normal person would want to spend his career. I got more job satisfaction digging trenches. Outside of working as a fire lookout or a ranger I can't see the appeal of federal employment besides the steady paycheck.

bdoran said...

To be admitted to the military you have to pass a battery of tests physical, mental, basic pyschological. If you are still passed thru unfit - and Military Entrance Processing Stations are pretty foolishly picky - you may well get eliminated in Basic Training as that's one of it's roles. If somehow still you pass on your unit may be forced to discharge you. My point being you have an employee already quite screened, certainly better than many idiots in government I meet. So there are certain base qualifications. We *do not* take the dregs. We don't. Nor does the top quintile often come knocking. We are over represented by the 3 middle quintiles. There are also such advantages as drug screening and continuous testing. There are habits of discipline, timeliness, work ethic, and yes a sense of Duty and values. Now mind you we didn't wake up 50 years ago and discover values and Duty. The rest of society threw them on the pyre. Finally the matter of combat experience; I post on MilBlogs that there should be no rank without blood. This is not machismo. It's because until you see blood and suffering, death amongst your own the Military can be a game. It stops when it gets real. When you see Lifesblood. This will teach you the awesome burdens of duty and how sacred it is more than any education. In sum Veterans will be in the main a postive. It doesn't hurt that to the extent we think of politics we remember our oaths [we're old fashioned about such things] to defend the Constitution.

Hacienda said...

If you talk about dogeating in the presence of Asians, they get upset. --------------------------

Actually, that's not right.
If you talk about dogeating in the presence of whites, they get upset.

DirtyTricks said...


If you are white and want to benefit from affirmative action, start claiming you are black. Seriously.
I've read that 30% of whites in the US have some black heritage, so why not you? Just claim you had your DNA tested.
Google Walter Francis White. He was an NAACP leader for 25 years. He had blond hair and blue eyes, just like his mother. Wikipedia claims 27 of his great-great-great grandparents were white and five were black. (or part black)

Thomas O. Meehan said...

I can remember when a fair number of WWII Vets were on the Civil Service rolls in New Jersey. My impression of some of them was as walking wounded, who couldn't take full advantage of the post war boom. This was in the late 1960's.

I don't remember any serious objection to this at the time. I doubt this is the case now.

Anonymous said...

Perhaps relevant

Anonymous said...

Current fed employee, veteran paratrooper, and I have six years experience in law enforcement. Passed over for a position with the Forest Service as a Law Enforcement Ranger for a 22 y/o latina with a Criminal Justice bachelors.

So I'm wondering where this guy is getting his info from.


Change your name to DaWayne Menendez. It will help a lot.

Anonymous said...

There's another aspect which isn't exactly the hiring preference issue on the employer side, but one on the employee side.

On Sept 11, I was a grad student in theory CS work, algorithm work and crypto work at a top school in the bay area. Prior to that, I'd worked in the defense sector writing various detection algorithms. In 2003, I applied for a number of intelligence related jobs.

I got a call one day from the DIA. They were offering me a job. Based on my resume. No interview. No meeting a single person. I was a GS 11 to start, and they didn't have an opening for me yet, but I had the job.

I was flummoxed--what did this mean, I had a job, but not an opening? It meant I was on the list. Some day, I'd get another call, and at that time, I could arrive in VA. No way of knowing if that was 4 months or 44 months away though. What about my boss? Who would I report to? Who would I work for? Who were my colleagues? They didn't know, couldn't say, didn't matter.


NO ONE who was used to job offers in silicon valley would have stood for such insanity. OF COURSE who you work for matters. OF COURSE who your colleagues are matters. and duh, knowing when you would start would matter to your spouse (which I had) or kids (which I didn't). The private sector just didn't treat people this badly, no matter how badly they did treat you.

Only veterans would be in a position to work at a place like this--only vets could be in a position where it didn't matter where or when the job came though. Only vet families could be used to the uprooting experience. and more, only vets who are used to taking orders and having no say in who is in their company would take a job without first meeting their boss or colleagues.

Well run private organizations work off camaraderie and relationships. the govt is going out of its way to deselect anyone who would want such a trait in their work environment.

As you can guess, I took a job elsewhere long before the call from DIA came that the position for me was open. For all I know, I might still be on the list.

Anonymous said...

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/comment/columnists/borisjohnson/9764197/How-Gangnam-Style-and-Fifty-Shades-gave-culture-a-spanking.html

Captain Tripps said...

This is why I love this blog so much. So many of Steve’s topics directly intersect with my own life.

I can definitely speak to this with a good degree of knowledge; spent 23 years in and retired from the Army. The Veteran’s Preference is essentially divided into 4 tiers. Lowest Tier is a standard honorably-discharged (a key provision; this does not apply for the other categories of discharge) veteran (for example, my Marine cousin, who spent 5 years in the Corps and was honorably discharged). This person would receive 5 extra points. The next 3 tiers receive 10 extra pints and are rank ordered based on the degree of service-connected disability they are rated, in accordance with Veteran’s Administration standards. So, a veteran with a disability rating of less than 10% receives preference above the standard veteran (described above). A veteran with at least 10% but less than 30% would receive preference over the previous two categories. Finally, a veteran with greater than 30% disability would receive the highest level of preference, if the candidate pool included members of all 4 categories.

Having spent 4 years in the paratroopers and 60+ airborne operations later, plus my 8 additional years riding around in tanks and armored personnel carriers designed only to keep you from getting shot/blown up while delivering combat power to the battlefield, as well as the various and sundry physical strain of soldiering, my disability rating at retirement was greater than 30% (my ankles, knees, lower back and left shoulder are held together with twine and duct tape). (And I wouldn't trade a minute of those 23 years for anything else - with the possible exception of being able to walk on the Moon.) Now, that gives me an advantage, but, as noted above, primary preference goes to federal civil service employees who are considered “Permanent”, which usually kicks in after 24-36 months of initial employment to federal service. That person would likely be selected over me, if we were roughly equal in experience, education, etc. But, the hiring official would have to write a justification for choosing that candidate over me and include it in the official selection document. However, that is not hard to do. (I actually did it).

Up to the 24 month point, a federal civilian employee is considered conditional, and can be released/fired for cause, relatively easily. After that it becomes much more difficult for management to do so, and, as I said, that civilian receives the highest preference for employment, if they’re looking to move elsewhere in the FedGov because they don’t like their current job.

That said, the overwhelming number of veterans go to work for the Defense Department (Or the various Service Departments). You would expect so, given that they’ve seen how the inside works, and, in general, most want to apply lessons learned and make a positive difference for the service they performed on active duty and the young servicemen and women coming in behind them. They also tend to go to Homeland Security and VA, and to some extent, Justice or the smaller LEAs (ICE, BATF, Border Patrol, US Marshalls, etc, but these are mostly former Military/Shore Police types); all the other Departments, much less so. In general, I think the USG gets a marginal back-for-the-buck by gaining the collective institutional knowledge in hiring vets (at least on the DoD side). But the downside is that military culture is inherently conservative, and can be hard to change when confronted with new/emerging threats or other paradigm shifts.

Anonymous said...

Sorry, Steve, my ex-wife's brother was an active duty Air Force avionics tech in Japan and England in the late 80s, and he took a job with American Airlines when he left the service. He couldn't hack the private sector, so he took the bonus to re-up just before Gulf War I. When the dust cleared and things were settled down, one of his base's C-5s broke down in KSA, so he flew over to do the fix. He spent 12 hours in country, designated a "combat zone" and he was the first person I know to run out and get a Veterans plate for his car.

Your really think the REMF brigade is smaller these days?

Cail Corishev said...

"NO ONE who was used to job offers in silicon valley would have stood for such insanity. OF COURSE who you work for matters."

But people who want to work for the federal government don't think that way. As Derb puts it, the overriding drive is to "Get A Government Job."

Silicon Valley is an assortment of private companies, some good, some bad. Experience with one company may improve your resume when you go looking for a job at another company, but there are no guarantees. You don't get hired by "Silicon Valley"; you get hired by XYZ Tech Corp., and if that doesn't work out you're on your own again.

That's not the case with the federal government. Despite the different departments, to a large extent it's one monolithic entity with regards to hiring rules. As commenters here have chronicled, if you can get hired and settle into the system for a couple years, you become "permanent," and then you can start angling for a better position.

It doesn't matter if the first job you're offered is cleaning up behind the horses at presidential parades. If your goal is a comfy federal sinecure, you take it and get that foothold established.