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Why US Gov't Retirement Involves a Hole in the Ground Near Pittsburgh 142

Posted by timothy
from the it's-just-that-simple dept.
Increasing automation worries some people as a danger to the livelihood of those who currently earn their livings at jobs that AI and robots (or just smarter software and more sophisticated technology generally) might be well-suited to, as the costs of the technology options drop. The Washington Post, though, features an eye-opening look at one workplace where automation certainly does not rule. It's "one of the weirdest workplaces in the U.S. government" — a subterranean office space in what was once a limestone mine, where 600 Office of Personnel Management employees process the retirement papers of other government employees. The Post article describes how this mostly-manual process works (and why it hasn't been changed much to take advantage of advancing technology), including with a video that might remind you of Terry Gilliam's Brazil. As the writer puts it, "[T]hat system has a spectacular flaw. It still must be done entirely by hand, and almost entirely on paper. The employees here pass thousands of case files from cavern to cavern and then key in retirees’ personal data, one line at a time. They work underground not for secrecy but for space. The old mine’s tunnels have room for more than 28,000 file cabinets of paper records."
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Why US Gov't Retirement Involves a Hole in the Ground Near Pittsburgh

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  • Of course! I know where I've seen this before.

    "The X-Files" Season 3 Episode 2 "Paper Clip" /* insert witty comment about government secrecy and overreach */

    • ... insert witty comment about government secrecy and overreach */

      Government secrecy and overreach aside, I'm not certain the power of technology is ready to challenged an entrenched army of bureaucrats.

      Long after every assembly line job is automated, government functions will still be as efficient as they were in the fifties.

      • Have you been asleep for the whole 'NSA' thing? I'm not heartened by this; but if that isn't efficiency, I'm not sure what efficiency looks like...
        • The NSA is the exception. Still snowden proves the NSA relies on 50's era trust for documents. Why wasn't secure connections established for Hawaii? How many other sites does the NSA allow full access to their documents.

          Also the NSA fired 90% of their Admins shortly afterwards. If they were that overstaffed what else is their bureaucracy screwing up?

        • by ShanghaiBill (739463) on Sunday March 23, 2014 @10:08PM (#46560893)

          if that isn't efficiency, I'm not sure what efficiency looks like...

          The NSA may be efficient at amassing lots of data. But I doubt if that is an efficient way to achieve their real mission of identifying useful intelligence. They are efficient at creating haystacks, but that doesn't mean they are finding many needles.

          • The NSA may be efficient at amassing lots of data. But I doubt if that is an efficient way to achieve their real mission of identifying useful intelligence. They are efficient at creating haystacks, but that doesn't mean they are finding many needles.

            But is NSA's job really to 'idenfity useful intelligence' or create the databanks ready for when they do actually find a needle throught other means, that all they have to do is write the needles name into the search box and they get a list of needles friends and relatives and all juicy little dirty secrets as well, unabridged, in-detail history of you and your relations?

            • by Sique (173459)
              Then the NSA does a hell of a non-job. It wasn't able to find the nadle named "Tsarnaev brothers", though there were warnings about them. Same with "Abdulmutallab", which seems to have turned up nothing despite even his own father was warning about him.
              • What warnings? Did they look similar to thousands of other warnings about others that never panned out into anything? If so, then it was just noise.
                • Did they look similar to thousands of other warnings about others that never panned out into anything? If so, then it was just noise.

                  With the benefit of 20-20 hindsight that warning was proved to be accurate. That means it wasn't noise, it was actually a signal lost in the noise.

                  • Not necessarily.

                    If smoke exhumes from 85 out of 100 houses due to burning firewood, then smoke exhuming from houses is not signal. If a house is on fire, and smoke is escaping from it, a glance at the skyline showing smoke rising from a house is not signal.

                    If, however, you adjust the angle on your scanner so as to get tops of houses--and use more, staggered scanners--and find that smoke is coming from the WINDOWS of this house, THAT is signal. It's different.

                    So if the "warnings" about these two jac

                    • by Sique (173459)
                      And that's exactly the problem the NSA faces: Hindsight is 20/20. After you know who actually staged an attack, you recognize the pattern that might have raised the alarm. The NSA seems to believe that they can spot the pattern before the actual attack, but so far it didn't happen. At least that's what we know. The NSA seems to believe that more data will help spot the patterns more easily, but to me, it looks as if all it spots is noise and signals indistinguishible from noise.

                      Sometimes I am reminded of

                    • No, you're wrong. You don't recognize the pattern that might have raised the alarm; you construct an imaginative story in retrospect that holds no meaning in real life. There are two explanations for this: firstly, that your story is a ball of pseudo-logical bullshit that sounds more important than it is; and secondly, that you *didn't* take notice of any of this stuff, therefor it was never going to get noticed.

                      They're both interesting explanations, and both important. Through studies of history, it

          • I believe that law enforcement catches as many criminals as it can afford to catch. There are probably millions of Americans who could feel a hand on their shoulder at any moment but the simple truth is catching a criminal creates a huge expense in many cases. It is rather like an IRS auditor who can easily catch far more cheaters than the system could ever hope to deal with. It is also part of the reason that arrests are sometimes seen as racial in nature. If you were running a cop shop and knew t
            • by oji-sama (1151023) on Monday March 24, 2014 @06:45AM (#46562231)

              I believe that law enforcement catches as many criminals as it can afford to catch. There are probably millions of Americans who could feel a hand on their shoulder at any moment but the simple truth is catching a criminal creates a huge expense in many cases.

              Considering the prison population in the USA in comparison to many other countries, the American law enforcement would seem to be rather well funded.

              • The moment the prisons became a very profitable business, you could be sure that the cops and judges would get the money they need to keep getting convictions.
                Tolerance and prevention policies don't bring quite as much cold hard cash and jobs.

            • I believe that law enforcement catches as many criminals as it can afford to catch. There are probably millions of Americans who could feel a hand on their shoulder at any moment but the simple truth is catching a criminal creates a huge expense in many cases. It is rather like an IRS auditor who can easily catch far more cheaters than the system could ever hope to deal with.

              Yes. There's simply not enough manpower to corral all the tax dodgers, but enough of them are audited and prosecuted to create a general deterrent.

              It is also part of the reason that arrests are sometimes seen as racial in nature. If you were running a cop shop and knew that one segment of the public could afford good lawyers while another segment almost had to plea bargain due to lack of funds from a tax payer perspective you simply don't want to arrest those with enough money to fight back. Racial issues and money issues are welded together and it is only when a society is willing to hurt itself economically that the cops can go after well heeled citizens.

              Your theory on arresting folks based on their socioeconomic standing runs counter to my experience. Don't forget the police are but a small part of the legal system, and from there it goes jailers, bondsmen, lawyers, judges.... arresting merely the have-nots will not provide that greenish grease the system requires.

        • by dcw3 (649211)

          Maybe it's better at NSA (very doubtful), but have you been paying attention to how things have gone for VA medical records?
          http://www.usatoday.com/story/... [usatoday.com]
          http://dailycaller.com/2014/02... [dailycaller.com]

    • by DeSigna (522207)

      Reminds me of : http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/C... [wikipedia.org]

    • by darrylo (97569)

      No, this is the cover story for the Umbrella Corporation's Hive ....

    • It is merely a branch of L-space. If you encounter an ape, please pass him my greetings and give him a banana.
  • by cold fjord (826450) on Sunday March 23, 2014 @08:12PM (#46560315)
  • Not surprising (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Megahard (1053072) on Sunday March 23, 2014 @08:15PM (#46560333)

    My wife worked 30+ years for two different government agencies. Getting OPM to figure out her pension correctly was a nightmare.

  • ... about asses and holes in the ground.
  • Makes perfect sense (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Dan East (318230) on Sunday March 23, 2014 @08:22PM (#46560369) Homepage Journal

    This makes perfect sense. Who are people eligible for retiring? People who have worked for the government longer than 30 years (lesser time depending on age). Thus a lot of the records having to deal with these employees are on paper, because that was what was in use when they were hired.

    So there are two options - spend a ton of money all at once and digitize everything, or simply process the old paper records only as needed when those long-term employees retire. The first option is very inefficient because a significant number of the records will not be needed by the Office of Personnel Management for individuals who have died or no longer work for the government.

    As time goes on, more and more people retiring will have all digital records, and eventually the whole paper thing can go away. As the article quickly glosses over, only 15% of the cases require referencing the old paper records actually stored in the mine. And that number will constantly be dropping as those older employees retire.

    So the current method is more cost effective and will naturally "go away" on its own after another decade or so.

    • by guruevi (827432) <<evi> <at> <smokingcube.be>> on Sunday March 23, 2014 @08:54PM (#46560519) Homepage

      Not necessarily. I know at least one institution where day-to-day purchase orders have to be submitted in writing, signed off by two or three people, in triplicate, sent by inter-office mail, typed up into a minicomputer, printed out (using a daily batch print job), sent back by inter-office mail for verification, sent back again by inter-office mail with confirmation after which they'll create a purchase order send it back by inter-office mail after which you can send it to the vendor. Then once you got the product, the vendor sends an invoice where it has to be processed again in the minicomputer, printed out, sent out for verification, sent back with confirmation after which they'll write a check, send it back to you for sending to the vendor. Then once the vendor cashes the check, there is a final verification sent out and sent back.

      Oh and none of these processes are connected with a database. If you send them anything at any step, you have to include the entire purchase order because they won't know what you actually ordered when you simply say Purchase Order Request 135595. This process is supposed to take 2 weeks however they currently have a 3 week backlog.

      Replacing the system hasn't been done because (back in the day) they decided to go with a closed source solution and all that data is forever locked in a binary system. They're attempting to replace it with a closed source cloud-based system from an Australian vendor (this is in the US) which will take 2 years and 7 Aussie developers on-site (at ~$250/h each + room and board) just to implement the business processes, data extraction is done by another vendor to the tune of ~$1M. Your tax dollars at work!

    • by fermion (181285)
      Someone who started work in 1985 at age 30 would be able to retire now. They would have to wait for social security and medicare, but retirement would be not only possible, but encouraged as the US tries to reduce the overcapacity built up during that time, overcapacity generated by the lack of the highest administration to understand effectiveness that would be generated by the maturing technology of the time.

      Computers had been in use for over 30 years at that time by the US governement. By the 80's co

      • by plopez (54068)

        I was working for a uni. on a mainframe system doing maintenance programming. One of my co-workers had the job of getting old records off of 7 track tape and migrating them onto an IBM OS380/MVS system in EBCIDIC. It took her 6 months to figure it all out.

        • by dbIII (701233)
          Meanwhile in geophysics we just send the old stuff on reels to people that transcribe tapes like that onto new media nearly every month. However some current geophysical standards still have EBCDIC file headers and a lot of current software can read the old stuff, so that's probably only replacing the easiest bit of the above process.
          Vim can be used to edit EBCDIC and "dd" can convert it to ASCII.

          What is hard is getting stuff from low contrast scans of dot matrix printouts, or even from the original print
      • by hink (89192)

        ... Computers had been in use for over 30 years at that time by the US governement. By the 80's computers were in wide use for many purposes. I would suggest that many records are in computers, but one issue we have seen is that the government has not be able to get the computers to work together.

        Getting the wildly heterogeneous systems to talk together is the major sticking point. I have been REQUIRED to enter duplicate information into multiple database systems during the over 20 years I have worked in the federal government. The worst offender for this duplication is systems that track "mandatory" training requirements. A major cause of the smokestacks is that the people who pay for a system do not want to pay money so that "other groups" can use the data. Another driver is the mindset that not

    • by plopez (54068)

      Better a gradual approach than an SAP, PeopleSoft, or $OtherHorridSystem. A cloudified distributed BYOD 24/7 converged SaaS mobile soultion. And the security breaches are free!

    • by alen (225700)

      RTFA article, it's a business rules problem
      due to lots of laws on the books calculating pensions differently for different agencies and different years of service it's almost impossible to code the business rules to take in different factors into account

      • by OhPlz (168413)

        due to lots of laws on the books calculating pensions differently for different agencies and different years of service it's almost impossible to code the business rules to take in different factors into account

        If that's true, I wonder how the IRS processes tax returns. I can't imagine anything more complex than our tax laws. I doubt it's that bad, more likely it's that our government is really bad at taking on big projects.

        At least they've put a new spin on the term "data mining".

        • The dirty little not-so-secret-anymore is that the IRS simply does not do anything with about 90% of returns other than cash your check or send you a refund for whatever you ask for. They simply are forced to trust that the numbers are right. This is now out in the open and has resulted in a new type of scam where criminals simply fill out bogus returns for hundreds of SSN's claiming refunds. The IRS then happily sends them the money, to the tune of $millions of dollars to single addresses. The US Post offi

          • This is largely because the IRS has to send out refunds as quickly as possible. It does some checks that can be automatic quite quickly (for example you can't send in a return with wrong W2 or SSN information because the Social Security database is quite good), but other info simply can't be checked in any reasonable time-frame.

            For example a lot of people have businesses that aren't big enough to require full-scale accounting services. Their income is fully taxable, but the IRS has no idea which bank accoun

        • The laws are complicated as hell, but very few individual returns are terribly complicated. The ones that are complicated tend to be the same complicated year after year, so if they get audited once and an IRS agent sits down with the paperwork and verifies it's all cool in 2007 then nobody human needs to look at it for a decade or two.

          OTOH we have checks and balances, a small-c-conservative form of government, and a Legislature where every legislator has a lot of power. That means that if in 1975 Congressm

      • by dcw3 (649211)

        So, you're insinuating that the people doing it by hand can do the "almost impossible" work easier than having it coded? Seriously?

        • So, you're insinuating that the people doing it by hand can do the "almost impossible" work easier than having it coded? Seriously?

          Keep in mind this is the Federal Government.

          If they screw up the pension because that guy's six years in the Spokane-area EPA didn't count due to his having to take a demotion after using the n-word in paperwork then it's a fucking disaster. Whereas the private sector would see that extra $5-$10k a year as a rounding error, learning experience, and potential lawsuit; the Federal government sees it as a potential CNN or Congressional investigation and freaks the fuck out.

          In other words the problem is not cal

      • Difficult, yes, but not even near impossible. I know because I have implemented a federal pension calculator for a private sector company, twice. The first iteration was more for planning, however, I am nearing completion of a new calculator that would be suitable for both retirement processing and longer term planning. It's not a problem that can be solved with money or manpower, it's a problem that is solved with a very flexible design and intense knowledge of the business rules. You can also not rely on
        • Reading the article it didn't seem like the actual math was the problem. The problem seemed to be that the verification requirements were diverse, sundry, and obsolete.

          So you might now this guy studied fish for x years with the EPA, transferred over to managing the rivers with the Corps of Engineers, moved to Interior (which manages commercial fishing regulations), did a stint in the Park Service, and then had a job evaluating NSF Grant proposals studying fish. That's five institutions you have to get paper

          • Yes, the article is primarily focused on the lack of electronic data and only briefly mentions the business rules complexity. I was responding the to the comment that the business rules were impossible to implement.

            The business rules for federal pensions are incredibly complex. Each new wrinkle/law that was passed exponentially increases the number of permutations of rules that need to be handled. There are exceptions on top of exceptions--within exceptions. The inability to implement these business rules w

    • People who have worked for the government longer than 30 years ...

      Military pensions start at 20 years. So someone can enlist at age 18, and then retire and start collecting a pension at age 38.

    • by swillden (191260) <shawn-ds@willden.org> on Sunday March 23, 2014 @10:59PM (#46561069) Homepage Journal

      Thus a lot of the records having to deal with these employees are on paper, because that was what was in use when they were hired.

      So there are two options - spend a ton of money all at once and digitize everything, or simply process the old paper records only as needed when those long-term employees retire.

      Because there are no personnel-related actions between hiring and retirement which could benefit from automation?

      And, in any case, the fundamental assumption behind your argument -- that records were all paper-based 30 years ago -- is simply false. I know from personal experience that one significant federal employer, the Department of Defense, managed all personnel records electronically 30 years ago. And, in general the notion of any large organization not having digitized such record-keeping in 1984 stretches credulity. Even in 1954 automation wasn't rare in large organizations, though it was of the punched card variety (and the punched card processing was often mechanical, not electronic). In 1964 it would still have been unsurprising to find a large organization that did everything on paper. In 1974 it would have been surprising and a bit backward, but not shocking. In 1984? No.

      In fact, the article even quotes a man who oversaw the system in the early 80s and upon discovering the fact -- in 1981 -- he was shocked and dismayed, and concerned that being near such backwardness would destroy his reputation. 30 years ago was well past the point when everything of the sort was all electronic.

      • by tlhIngan (30335)

        And, in any case, the fundamental assumption behind your argument -- that records were all paper-based 30 years ago -- is simply false. I know from personal experience that one significant federal employer, the Department of Defense, managed all personnel records electronically 30 years ago. And, in general the notion of any large organization not having digitized such record-keeping in 1984 stretches credulity. Even in 1954 automation wasn't rare in large organizations, though it was of the punched card va

        • by swillden (191260)
          You should RTFA. The records are digitized already. A big part of what the "hole" does is turn them all into paper, then process them, then re-enter them in the computer.
        • by dcw3 (649211)

          The DoD's "huge budget" as you call it is organized into a wide variety of areas by Congress. The DoD doesn't get to apply it as they see fit. When items are large enough in the budget, they receive their own recognition, becoming a "program of record" with Congressional oversight, and specific funding. That would likely be the case here.

        • The DoD is probably a special case - most fhe 'employees' it manages are probably there for under 10 years, and the number of "lifers" is relatively few.

          Perhaps my little corner of the DoD is an exception, but from what I can tell, nearly all DoD employees are very much lifers. Very, very few of my former coworkers have went off into private industry, and very, very few of the new hires come from private industry. I'm assuming that since you single-quote the word employees, you're not actually talking about their employees?

    • Get your logic out of here! I want to blindly hate the government and if the only way I can do it is by misinterpreting everything in order to push a narrative of inefficiency then so be it!
    • That assumes that the other parts of the government are actually starting to digitize the processes that input into this. They are attempting to do so but as the article states only 5% of large scale government IT projects succeed and 41% completely fail completely. Some of those other projects are very likely ones that will provide the digitized inputs into this process. So while I think your over all analysis is correct that this problem will eventually self correct I suspect your time line of "another de

    • No, because you have multiple problems, apparently being solved in the same solutions.

      One, storing personnel records that get mailed in, on paper. Arguably another is finding those records, but stems from the first.

      Two, calculating pension rates based on the data.

      A system that solves the first may spit out bad numbers, and it has to be dropped.

      The personnel records are not being stored in a common format now, so it won't be solved on its own. The only current solution is digitizing records as they come in,

    • by omnichad (1198475)

      "All digital" as time goes on only means that all of their paper documents will be scanned as images into a digital file system. Aside from the storage space, going all-digital saves nothing else with their current methods. It does not transcribe the data into a computer-readable format. At best, they would be manually typing data into a computer system from a digital scan instead of from physical paper. And it appears every agency has their own documents - nothing is standardized.

      Even brand new records

  • Does the video play for anyone (without Windows?) Won't load flash on Firefox, Chrome or Safari...
  • I submitted this to solyentnews.org [soylentnews.org] yesterday. soylentnews is a fork of /. after the beta fiasco. If you hate dice, check it out. No ads or trackers either. My ghostery seems to look lost whenever I go there. :)
    • by Gertlex (722812)

      Alrighty. Bookmark replaced.

    • Nah, they suck. I tried that site...within DAYS of being founded, it posted a dupe. No I'm not kidding. It's also a hostile environment unless you agree with the left-wing groupthink. They're not real big on tolerating dissent.
  • I am not shocked by the use of paper. It works, and it has a very good record on the data leak front.

    However there is a problem with disaster recovery. What happens if paper burns or is flooded?

  • At least they didn't invest (aka: give a private company) billions to provide them with a completely useless computer system over the course of a decade that was totally outdated before the first dollar was spent, and wasn't compatible with anything.
  • "During the past 30 years, administrations have spent more than $100 million trying to automate the old-fashioned process in the mine and make it run at the speed of computers."

    Stating the obvious, that's is chump change for the Government. Which isn't a bad thing, the article mentions other services money was tossed at to no avail.

    • $100M over the past 30 years is about 0.00016% of total federal spending over that period. It's really pretty trivial.

    • by dcw3 (649211)

      A billion here, a billion there, pretty soon, you're talking real money.

  • Probably looks like this [wikipedia.org].

  • Not that bad (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Animats (122034) on Monday March 24, 2014 @12:28AM (#46561419) Homepage

    This clerical shop processes once in a lifetime events. Once the retirement data for an employee has been calculated, it goes into a pension payout system that automatically generates the checks every month. So it's not bad that it's mostly manual.

    Some years ago, I got a look at the USAF Satellite Control Facility, which until the mid-1990s controlled all USAF satellites from a big blue building in Sunnyvale, CA. They "drove the bus" - handled orbital insertion and adjustment, stabilized the satellite orientation, monitored solar panels and batteries, and handled operational problems. (Payloads, such as cameras, radars, and such were controlled elsewhere by the owning agency over separate data links. Very USAF.) The systems used were so antiquated that one was a custom-built emulator for a tube computer. For each satellite pass, physical patchcords had to be set up to interconnect three computers (one to buffer data, one to decode it, and one to compute orbital mechanics) to process the data for the pass. The consoles looked and worked exactly like the 1960s ones from the Apollo program. The operation took about 600 people to run.

    Yet they never lost a satellite through an error made at that faciilty. The USSR has lost satellites through such errors. NASA has. COMSAT has. But not all those old guys in Sunnyvale.

    There were two attempts to modernize the facility; one using mainframes, and one using VAX computers. Both failed. It was finally replaced, cautiously, with a new facility at Falcon AFB. I have no idea what they're using. I wouldn't be surprised if some of the old software for some of the older satellites is still running in emulation.

    • Yet they never lost a satellite through an error made at that faciilty. The USSR has lost satellites through such errors. NASA has. COMSAT has. But not all those old guys in Sunnyvale.
      How'd they do all that while being on top of a Hellmouth? Didn't the frequent vampire attacks make their jobs difficult?
  • How may we meet your filing needs?
  • by Casandro (751346) on Monday March 24, 2014 @02:11AM (#46561721)

    I mean paper doesn't have to be inefficient, in fact it rarely is since paper based workflows are often optimized. Everybody working with paper understands the process and can therefore come up with ways to optimize it.
    I once worked at a hospital which had paper files. It makes sense since the documents in there can be in a lot of different types. The process of dealing with it was rather efficient on the paper side, you had some numbers and got the file with that number from a cabinet. The actual bottleneck was the computer based indexing system. We had something similar to E-Mail called "Outlook/Exchange". We ended up printing out those pseudo E-Mails, looking up each number individually in the indexing system, and writing the number of the file next to it. There was no way of sorting the entries to be able to reach them efficiently, nor was the system well designed. (it had SQL injection bugs!)
    This is just one example of how badly designed computer based workflows can be.

    Then there is the other point of governments being supposedly less efficient than companies. I have no idea where that idea comes from. I have 2 retirement funds, one run by a private company, the other one run by the government. While the government one manages to pay out millions of pensions every month and flawlessly adapts to any changes in my life, the private one can't even get a simple address change right, twice in a row!

    Why should companies change? Companies mainly act to self-preserve. Any change is not just constructive, but also destructive. For a company to change it would need to have a vital reason, without that reason it cannot change.
    Some people claim that there is the magic hand of the market which will somehow fix the problem though something called "competition". Those people go on citing exotic areas where their dogma actually worked and there was competition. However look around you. Go to an electronics store with a list of brands that come from the same manufacturer and then look at how many different prices exactly the same product gets sold. If there was competition, everyone would buy the cheapest of the otherwise identical products. There is no competition on many markets.

  • The reason this relic still exists is likely explained at 0:41 into the video where you can see the words "Iron Mountain" above the entrance. What can be processed with a few low power computers in a rack for a few hundred dollars a year is generating a mountain of cash for Iron Mountain in rental and consulting "fees".

    Follow the money.

  • http://www.grassrootshealth.ne... [grassrootshealth.net]
    http://www.vitamindcouncil.org... [vitamindcouncil.org]

    Of course, that goes for most indoor workers in general, from lack of direct sunlight. But it might be a bit more extreme for those working underground, who might be less likely to take lunch breaks up in the sunlight.

    • by dcw3 (649211)

      I think someone would have noticed this in miners long ago if there was a serious issue. I've personally spent the majority of my 38 year career working away from sunlight. The only side effect being that I have trouble seeing myself in the mirror, and a couple of pointy teeth.

  • Just keep paying them their salary for life and beyond. It's cheaper that way.

  • I retired from the Federal Government at the end of 2006. I never had any problems getting the information I needed about my upcoming retirement and the money started coming in right on time. Given all the failed modernization efforts I witnessed during my government career, I would hope they get a new system up and running before they do anything to the current one.
  • Why US Gov't Retirement Involves a Hole in the Ground Near Pittsburgh

    My first thought was that this was related to Centralia [wikipedia.org] somehow...

  • Nothing nefarious. Just a record repository. She hated it. She worked there about 3 years and finally wrangled a transfer to another government job in a real building.

  • Don't let government employees retire. Problem solved.

  • US government agencies are too conservative to increase their efficiency, while conservatives are lambasting US government agencies' inefficiency...

    Disclaimer: don't flame me bro, just playin' with words.

  • I get the idea of keeping records in a mine. Mines are great places. There are just a lot of things in the article that don't make any sense to me. Let me stick to the sob story of what a bad work environment it is...

    In the winter, employees enter the mine in the dark and leave in the dark. [...] "People are crabby. They're miserable. I mean, you can't blame them. They never see any sunlight," Armagost said.

    Just like when I worked at a large electronics firm in Illinois. In the winter I'd go in before the s

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