AFGE Local 1812

Cut not Grow

On Tuesday, March 10th, employees of the VOA were treated to a repeat performance of the annual “how little you are valued” BBG RIF show. This time the Emcees, Bearers of the Proverbial Bad News, were: Interim BBG CEO Andre Mendes and the BBG Director of Global Strategies, Rob Bole.

The theme of the show was the usual tired format that the Union and rank-and-file employees have witnessed year after year: eliminate radio broadcasts and cut, eliminate, reduce this & that language service, etc. One new element which had not cropped up since 2003 was DE-FEDERALIZATION of a VOA language service to a grantee organization. This year there is a new twist – BBG wants to combine the OCB (Radio/TV Marti) with the VOA Latin America Division (broadcasting for 50 years to Latin America) and, in one fell swoop, de-federalize them both. The long-held wish of the BBG – de-federalization with a cha-cha twist.

The de-federalization scheme has been popular with the BBG. The last time they did it, it did not work out so well. They de-federalized the respected VOA Arabic Service which, at its peak, cost about $6 million a year to operate and occupied a valuable niche in U.S. international broadcasting to the Middle East. Now its de-federalized successor, MBN, which has a minimal number of listeners and viewers, costs $106 million a year to operate. In the BBG FY 2016 budget request they are asking for $110 million. Imagine what the neglected VOA language services could do with an extra $100 million or so!

So less than a week after we all were told that Andrew Lack was leaving the Agency, we were treated to another typical slash-and- cut budget. A budget where the personal cost to the individuals who perform the work of the Agency is not factored into the decisions; where the employees of the OCB and the VOA Latin America Division, and 40 employees of the Afghan Service, the Indonesian Service, the Lao Service, the Kirundi and the Kinyarwanda Services are just collateral damage. While the massive bureaucracy at the Agency remains untouched and, like Topsy, continues to grow.

Less than two weeks after he stated that he was "here not to cut but to grow the organization", Mr. Lack was gone to greener and perhaps, more satisfying, pastures. We wonder whether or not, before his departure, he got a look at the atrocious budget proposal he would have been forced to promote and promulgate after making that statement. If he had stayed and would have been forced to subject the VOA to more cuts and yet-another RIF, Mr. Lack would surely have lacked credibility among rank-and-file broadcasters in this beleaguered Agency. Whether or not he saw it is only supposition but in any case, perhaps Mr. Lack did the only thing he could honorably do under the circumstances.


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