Travel Card Blues
Come April, Gene Lenning will have a new job for the first time in 14 years. But not by his choice.
Lenning enjoys his work as a chief engineer at the Missile Defense AgencyÃ¢€™s ground-based interceptor project in Huntsville, Ala., and wants to stay. And he says the quality of his work is not an issue. In fact, he said, half an hour after he found out about the move, Lenning received a $2,000 cash award for outstanding performance.
Lenning says he is being moved to the Space and Missile Defense Command also in Huntsville Ã¢€” and off the ground-based interceptor project Ã¢€” because he refuses to sign up for a government travel card.
Lenning has two objections to the travel card: First, he said, using a travel card puts him at risk of identity theft. He does not want to give his Social Security number to Bank of America, which provides travel cards for Defense Department employees. Lenning is concerned that the bank could sell his Social Security number to another party.
Lenning has a personal credit card with another company, but he said that bank will withhold his information if he asks. He said Bank of AmericaÃ¢€™s travel card does not have that option.
Second, Lenning said, waiting for Defense to reimburse him and the bank for charges on a card under his name puts his credit rating at risk. If Defense is late repaying Bank of America, Lenning said, the bank could turn his account over to a collection agency or credit agency, which will hurt his credit.
Interesting. Lenning’s concerns aren’t unwarranted but they seem rather strained. I wish it were otherwise, but protecting one’s identity is virtually impossible in the high tech age. And government workers (and, indeed, most managerial employees everywhere) have long had to go out of pocket on travel expenses and then get reimbursed and they usually make you fill out reams of paperwork on top of the wait time. When I was a college professor, it was not at all unusual–which is not to say I liked it–to have to wait four or five months to get reimbursed for rather sizable travel costs.
Lenning said the travel problems have disrupted his job. The latest problem was that, because Lenning could not travel, he was forced to miss an important March 9 meeting in Tucson to review designs for the project.
The new job will pay the same salary and benefits and is not a demotion, Lenning said. But he still does not want to leave his job and the relationships he has with his co-workers and bosses.
He’s damned lucky. People get fired for a whole lot less.