Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta's absences call into question management practices and a culture of workaholism
Leon Panetta at a conference in Washington D.C. / Reuters
The LA Times ran an anonymously sourced piece today on new Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta:
Aides say that unless he is required to stay in Washington or travel elsewhere, Panetta will spend most weekends and days off at his 12-acre walnut farm in scenic Carmel Valley, where he and his wife, Sylvia, make their home...
But his absences at the Pentagon have raised eyebrows in workaholic Washington. Even some of Panetta's friends wonder how he can get away so regularly while his department, by far the largest in the U.S. government, faces multiple wars and daily crises.
This is, in a way, a perfect encapsulation of why DC is such a terrible, and addictive place to work. At the Pentagon in particular, work performance is often judged by time served, not mission accomplished -- that is, if you are at your desk, busily writing or signing things or attending marathon six-hour coordination meetings that don't actually do anything or making powerpoint presentations and drafting snowflake memos... then you are, obviously, a strong worker and good leader.
The thing is, that's just workaholism, and workaholism is actually bad. Despite the requirement of a secure environment to handle any immediate crises, Panetta has a secure Blackberry he can access at his home in California, and considering how much he spent there as CIA director I'm almost certain he has his own Sensitive Compartmented Information Facility (SCIF) in the basement (and if not, they can take as little as six months to build and certify). In other words, there is no reason why spending the weekend at home has to prevent Panetta from doing his job, or even being available to do his job should the need arise.