Bloomberg Opinion – Glory isn’t part of the deal when you go to work for the federal government. “The following is adapted from a new chapter for the paperback edition of “The Fifth Risk,” which will be published by Norton in November. “I found Art Allen standing on the lawn just outside his front door, a few miles inland from some uninviting Connecticut beach. He was in his mid-60s, and a scientist — but a scientist with a man-of-action feel to him. He wore a Coast Guard Search and Rescue polo and a massive Fenix 3 GPS watch, and he had this snow-white Hemingway beard. Six canoes hung from hooks inside his garage, a scrum of mountain bikes leaned against the wall, and all looked as if they had a lot of miles on them. So did he. For nearly 40 years, Art Allen had been the lone oceanographer inside the U.S. Coast Guard’s Search and Rescue division. Among other subjects, he had mastered the art of finding things and people lost at sea. At any given moment, all sorts of objects are drifting in the ocean, a surprising number of them Americans. The Coast Guard plucks 10 people a day out of the ocean, on average. Another three die before they’re found. Which is to say that 13 Americans, every day, need to be hauled out of the water or off some crippled sailboat or sea kayak or paddleboard. “I’ve only thought about one problem in my life,” said Art, with an odd little laugh, which sounded half like a chuckle and half like an apology for speaking up. “Which is how to improve Coast Guard search and rescue.”..
During the shutdown I’d stumbled upon a very long list of federal workers who had been nominated for an obscure public-service award called the Sammies. Virtually all the people on the list had been laid off without pay and more or less told by their society that their work was not all that important. I wondered what it felt like to be at once up for an award for one’s work, and required by law not to do it. The list was in alphabetical order. At the top was Arthur A. Allen…”