An open letter to federal employees

Commentary by Jeff Neal
Founder of
& Senior Vice President, ICF International

This column was originally published on Jeff Neal’s blog,, and was republished here with permission from the author.

Dear Federal Employees,

Welcome back! We’ve missed those of you who had to go home while the Congress did whatever that was that it just did.


I heard some people say you got a two-week paid vacation. It doesn’t sound like the vacations I have taken. My vacations have always been planned in advance, I scheduled them when I wanted to go, I knew when I was coming back and I got paid while I was gone. Maybe those folks who think you had a vacation have a different idea of what a vacation is. Seems like what happened to you was really a terribly unkind and disruptive thing.

Courtesy of Jeff Neal

Most of the people I know are sorry you had to go through it and hope you do not suffer financially from having your pay disrupted.

The work you do is important. You support our troops. You protect our environment. You make certain people pay their taxes. You provide help in emergencies. You guard our borders. You tell us what the weather will be so we can plan for it. You protect our intellectual property through patents and trademarks. You regulate the banking system so it doesn’t collapse. You run countless IT, HR, financial, security and other support systems and programs that enable all of the mission folks to get their jobs done. You make certain airplanes do not fly into one another in the air. You keep people with bombs from getting on airplanes. You carry out diplomatic relations with other countries.

You do so many things that I could write all day and not cover half of them.

I appreciate everything you do for the people of the United States. You make a difference every day.

It is probably hard to do it, but maybe some of the folks who do not like the government could learn to separate how they feel about the institution from how they feel about you. You are not politicians. You are public servants whose work makes a difference.

I certainly hope what happened to you never happens again. If it does, maybe we would be better off if we really shut down the whole government when the money runs out. Open the borders, ground the airplanes. Bring the troops home. Let our fellow citizens see what would really happen if you were not on the job every day. The next shutdown would probably last an hour before everyone was begging you to come back.

I know you have a lot of work to do because of the shutdown, so I won’t take any more of your time.

Thank you for everything you do. Your work matters. You matter. Please keep on doing the great work you do for the people. Most of us appreciate you and your work and are thrilled to see you back on the job.

Thank you,


Copyright 2013 by Jeff Neal. All rights reserved.

Jeff Neal is founder of the blog,, and a senior vice president for ICF International, where he leads the Organizational Research, Learning and Performance practice. Before coming to ICF, Neal was the chief human capital officer at the Department of Homeland Security and the chief human resources officer at the Defense Logistics Agency.