“As always, our focus in these efforts continues to be providing world class support to ensure the US Antarctic Program succeeds in executing the vital mission of productive scientific achievements on the Antarctic Continent.” -RPSC Program Director
Recently NSF has discovered that it needs to shave a maximum of
$10 $30 million from the USAP annual budget.
Personally, I would fire everyone who has ever been to the ice, send the remainder from Denver to McMurdo or Pole to work outside in the cold, hire a bunch of circus clowns to run things from Denver, then bring Oprah down to document the weeping.
But this is where my views diverge from management’s on the budget matter.
Here is what NSF and RPSC have recently cooked up to solve their budgetary woes:
There is some talk about not opening the ice runway next summer. That will save about a million and a half. Some of those savings will simply be sucked into transportation expenses to and from the more distant Willy and Pegasus airfields, so let’s just call it a rough million and a quarter for now, though that’s conservative.
Also under consideration is the idea of not having a Winfly season (August to October). That would save money on flights, Winfly wages, and a whole bunch of other ways, but it brings up a unique situation:
Many of the people presently set to winter have signed winter contracts with the understanding that they can leave in August, to get back to another job, to go to a wedding, to see their baby born, or to do whatever useless things it is that people do when they are not working on contract for Science.
Presently there is a plane scheduled in 7 days. After that the winter will begin (5 months with no way out), and NSF has still not decided yet whether people who are wintering will be able to leave in August or must wait until the beginning of summer season.
That means this: people who have been preparing to spend the next five months here do not yet know whether they are going to do so, or
whether they are going to hop on this upcoming plane at the last minute. Additionally, they have been told that they cannot send any package mail out on the flight, and there is a weight limit on personal baggage of 145lbs or less.
Personally, I don’t care if the next flight is in August, September, October, or January 2010. Freshies hold no interest for me. What does interest me though, is how a national agency overtly dedicated to “the progress of humanity” treats humans on a daily basis in order to strangle their progress with both hands.
Because there is a lot of mundane background information involved in the matter, I will translate the array of variables in an analogy, for those folks out there on the interweb:
You are a computer programmer. You have been offered a single day consulting contract by the National Computer Agency. You will be paid $1000 an hour. It’s okay cash, but not enough to change your life. You have a choice in which contract you can select. All of them begin at 9am. Your first option is to work from 9 to 5. Your second option is to work from 9 to 3, which is good because you have another consulting contract beginning at 4 with the International Computer Agency that pays $5,000 an hour.
But the National Computer Agency has some rules. Due to the top-secret nature of their work, they lock down the building just after 9, reopen the doors for a moment at lunchtime, and then at 3 for those who need to leave, lock them down again, then reopen them at 5.
They politely mention that since you will not be allowed to leave, you must bring the things with you that you need to do your job.
You select the 9 to 3 contract and arrive to work. You have brought a laptop, a PDA, and, just for fun, a baby goat you will roast for lunch.
At 11:53, a minion of the National Computer Agency arrives at your desk to tell you that the contracts have been changed. You may leave for lunch if you wish, but the window for leaving at 3 might be canceled, and may be changed to 4, maybe 4:30, whatever they decide later, but maybe it will still happen at 3, who knows.
Now you have to make a choice. Will you leave now, certain that your contract with the International Computer Agency is more important? Or should you stay on in the chance that the window for leaving at 3 may occur?
“Oh, and another thing,” says the minion. “if you leave at lunch, due to company policy, you may only remove lunch items from the building.”
Now your choices are between forfeiting your computer and PDA and leaving only with your goat at lunchtime but making it to the lucrative 4pm contract somewhere else, or to stay on until some as of yet unknown hour and leave with your belongings but perhaps missing out on the other contract.
You have seven minutes to decide.
This is the tomfoolery NSF is pulling right now, (minus the delicious roasted baby goat and great wages).
The real kicker, the detail that paints NSF not merely as thoughtless and officious but as a cold-blooded serpent, is that if you decide to leave because of this change in the schedule, they may take your bonus and consider you contract incomplete, which means that you (not they) broke the contract, though they are the ones who changed the terms at the last minute.
U! S! A! P! International Polar Year! I! L! L! E! G! A! L! Go Team!!!