Career Federal Employees in Forefront of COVID-19 Effort

Two long-time federal employees are front and center amid government efforts to contain the COVID-19 coronavirus.

Most federal employees, at least career federal employees, are not frequently appearing on national television shows for an interview.

In my experience, most federal employees do not want this experience. Being a recognized expert of significance is frequently accompanied with becoming a target as well.

No doubt, there are advantages to extensive publicity, including the satisfaction of knowing your hard work and effort has value. Based on anecdotal evidence, most federal employees derive satisfaction from going to work, doing a good job, and having expertise useful to the employing agency without frequently appearing on television.

There is generally more job security in a federal job than in many private-sector jobs, the pay and benefits are not bad, and the satisfaction of doing a good job and receiving a retirement package at the end of a federal career provides financial security.

Federal Employees and Publicity

Most of the talking heads we see on television who work for the federal government are elected officials. But, every so often, there are federal employees who “suddenly” appear and become well known for their expertise and contribution to society.

Two of these federal employees are now on the news every day.

Dr. Anthony Fauci

How many Americans had heard of Dr. Anthony Fauci prior to the start of 2020?

No doubt, he had a sterling reputation in the medical community and well-known to those in that community. But, go to the local diner in a small town anywhere in the country and ask about Dr. Fauci and one would probably receive a blank look or a shoulder shrug. He was not a household name.

He is now, however. He is also a long-time federal employee. He appears in the FedSmith database of federal employee individual salaries. And, according to the 2018 data (later data is not yet available), he has a salary of $399,625.00 as a Medical Officer with the Department of Health & Human Services.

Dr. Fauci is a physician and immunologist who has served as the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases since 1984. He is now a well-known name as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

His expertise and opinion and valued and respected. He has served under a succession of presidents, starting with President Reagan in 1984 and He has turned down several offers to lead his agency’s parent, the NIH, and has been at the forefront of American efforts to contend with viral diseases.

This particular federal employee is playing a large role in dealing with the major problems for our country created by this virus. No doubt, whatever the solution to the problem is, Dr. Fauci will have a role in fashioning it.

A political appointee has little or no job security. As a federal employee, Dr. Fauci will presumably have the significant job security of most federal employees.

With the immense responsibility, high public profile and the significant impact he has had in the current method of curtailing COVID-19, he can expect plenty of criticism. A high profile job involves swimming with sharks of the human kind, and career politicians and the press are not known for withholding complaints or criticism. That seems to go with high profile jobs, even those without the intense publicity he has encountered as a frequent spokesman for the White House Coronavirus Task Force.

Dr. Deborah Birx

Dr. Deborah Birx is another federal employee who has become a household name.

Earlier in her career, Dr. Birx was Colonel Birx as an active duty reserve officer in the United States Army. She is also listed in the FedSmith database of federal employees with a 2018 salary of $288,653.00 and listed as a Medical Officer with the Department of Health & Human Services.

She has been a federal employee working in the field of medicine for a number of years at Walter Reed Medical Center, the National Institutes of Health and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and received recognition for her contributions in immunology, vaccine research, and global health issues around HIV/AIDS.

She is now known to the public as a member of the White House Coronavirus Task Force as the White House Coronavirus Response Coordinator. Whatever happens in successfully resolving the issue of COVID-19 on the American public, there is no doubt Dr. Birx will be in the forefront.

Drs. Fauci and Birx were likely picked for their specific medical expertise which would be useful in a national emergency. The recognition is probably satisfying but generates mixed emotions as the publicity removes a veil of privacy that enables us to live a normal life.

All federal employees may take some pride in seeing members of the federal community achieve this type of recognition for their expertise and service to their country. No doubt, many others would step into the glare of publicity if called upon to do so. That is the strength of having a career civil service that provides this type of expertise even if not recognized on a daily basis.

About the Author

Ralph Smith has several decades of experience working with federal human resources issues. He has written extensively on a full range of human resources topics in books and newsletters and is a co-founder of two companies and several newsletters on federal human resources. Follow Ralph on Twitter: @RalphSmith47