USAGM Watch Commentary
Michael Pack, the newly Senate-confirmed CEO of the $800 million mismanaged U.S. Agency for Global Media (USAGM), may start his first visit to the agency headquarters in Washington, D.C. in his new position by reassigning key managers to different jobs at the agency and making temporary new appointments, but he is not expected to fire any career federal government employees although he may ask employees who hold political appointments to leave, government personnel policy experts told USAGM Watch. They pointed out that reassignments of career managers are commonly done by new agency heads under Democratic and Republican administrations.
Representative Eliot L. Engel, Chairman of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, issued Tuesday night a statement that he has learned that “Michael Pack, the new CEO of the U.S. Agency for Global Media, intends to force out a number of the agency’s career senior leadership tomorrow morning.” Congressman Engel further said that “Mr. Pack should immediately reverse course and allow the nonpartisan public servants who run USAGM to keep doing their jobs.“
Government experts contacted by USAGM Watch said, however, that an “impeding firing spree at USAGM” is not an accurate description of what may happen because it is not legally possible. What is possible and what is likely to happen, experts told us, is similar to what other agency heads have done to make sure that they have their management team in place. Michael Pack may start by reassigning some of the key managers who have turned USAGM into a workplace with the record low employee morale in the federal government and, according to critics among independent U.S. experts and immigrant activists and journalists, allowed foreign propaganda from China, Iran and Russia to compromise Voice of America (VOA) programs.
One VOA Newsroom employee told USAGM Watch that employees would welcome a reassignment of 80 percent of current managers, some of whom have been with the agency and/or the Voice of America for decades. Affected managers are likely, however, to see their reassignments as a major blow. The Reagan administration reassigned a number of top VOA managers in 1981 and reformed the management structure. Former managers were put in less responsible positions but kept their grades and salaries. The same scenario is likely to unfold at USAGM under the new management team headed by CEO Michael Pack.