Washington DC can be a funny place when it comes to negotiating legislation. Apparently, an effort to renew a program that provides billions in funding for important long term research efforts (you know, the kind of programs the government should
be funding) may get held up
over some amendments added to the bill... including one that would ban federal money going to any gov't employees disciplined for viewing porn
on their computers. Effectively, the amendment means if you view porn on your computer as a gov't employee, you are fired. Actually, you don't even have to view
the porn. The language says no federal funding can go:
"to salaries to those officially disciplined for violations regarding the viewing, downloading, or exchanging of pornography..."
Want to get a federal employee fired? Send them an email with a pornographic picture as an attachment. What does this particular amendment have to do with federal funding for research? Apparently, the guy who wrote the amendment says he's upset about giving money to the NSF, because it merely "disciplined" and suspended rather than fired an employee found with porn on his computer. Of course, give the recent revelations about porn web surfing at the SEC
, if this goes through, say goodbye to the SEC.
Because no one wants to be seen as supporting government employees viewing porn, this particular amendment passed easily. We're coming up on election season, and you can bet no Congressional reps wanted to hand their opponents this line in a commercial: "While in Congress, Rep. X voted in favor
of letting federal employees view porn on their computers..." or something along those lines.
Of course, that same amendment also pulls funding for a number of programs and may cause the entire bill to be withdrawn, leaving the status of funding for a lot of research in limbo. Now, I'm all for making sure that the funding is used in a reasonable manner, and if certain programs are ineffective, it's worth looking to see if they should be removed from the bill. But, to lump in decisions on funding with a program about firing employees who view porn just seems like a crass political ploy during a debate on a particularly important issue. It may be par for the course in Congress, but to those of us who actually care about innovation, it's stories like this that make us so cynical about the US government.