Ever since I became part of the Washington, D.C., federal bureaucracy in November of 1985, family, friends, and people I don?t know, have asked me, what does a D.C. bureaucrat do? How does one explain to these innocents that on good days I write rules and regulations and on bad days, I manage chaos. But be it a good day or a bad one, I must still remain faithful to the oath that I took when I was sworn in as an FAA Aviation Safety Inspector in 1980. That oath requires me to defend the Constitution of the United States of America, and support to the best of my ability the primary mission of the FAA, which is to enhance aviation safety and encourage the growth of U.S. aviation.
But try giving that answer a few times and you find out pretty quickly that my 1950s value system does not sell well in the new millennium. So instead of being written off as an altruistic idiot, I answer their questions with a history lesson. I tell people that the word "bureaucrat" comes from the French word "bureau," which means a writing desk. So the English noun, bureaucrat describes a person that sits behind a desk. I also tell them the term "red tape" also has French origins that go back to the days of the old French monarchy. When a Paris bureaucrat finished a document or imperial edict that was a long time in the making, the document would be presented to the petitioner wrapped in a red ribbon. The longer the wait, the longer the ribbon. Hence, the origin of the term "red tape."
But even after my history lesson, I sense that they are still not satisfied, so I tell them that perhaps the best description of a bureaucrat came from my first born son, Mike, when he was just 5 years old. On his first day in kindergarten he was asked by his teacher what his father does for a living. He answered proudly: ?My daddy is a civil serpent!? They laugh and go on their way, as do I, but I always feel that I did not adequately or fairly describe the work that hundreds of D.C. bureaucrats in the FAA, who labor quietly and sometimes desperately, do to hold this thing called aviation safety together.
What follows is my attempt to justify my existence at 800 Independence Ave., Washington, D.C., or to put it another way, ?What does a bureaucrat do during his day job??
First a little background. On Thursday, Aug. 5, 2004, I published in the Federal Register a draft copy of the proposed changes to Advisory Circular (AC) 65.26, Charles Taylor, ?Master Mechanic? awards program for public comment. This was a routine request for comments, and quite frankly, I did not expect a whole lot of public reaction because most of the changes to the AC were administrative in nature that helped clarify some of the original requirements for issuance of the award. But right off, I did get a comment, via email. It was a serious one that gave me pause to ponder before I responded. I think it is worth your time to read my response to the commentator?s email, in order to provide you with a window into my day job.
I will open my window with a disclaimer. While all comments sent to the FAA for review are also available to the public, I have removed the individual?s name, address, and edited out other personal or related information from the following text out of respect for the individual?s right of privacy. I also had to edit my original email response in order to meet this magazine?s word and format requirements. It is important to remember that everyone in this country is entitled to his or her point of view especially when it honestly questions long-established practices and procedures. Here is the individual?s edited email comment to AC 65.26 draft.
EMAIL: Ref: U.S. DOT FAA Master Mechanic Award by a government agency
I think it is inappropriate for a government agency to spend taxpayer dollars on this kind of wastefulness. I think this kind of activity should be turned over to private industry to fund and to monitor. American taxpayers should NOT be involved in paying for any part of this.
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