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We are not “The Government”

PATRICK AFB, Fla. --      In regular conversation and interaction with contractors of all types, we are often referred to as "the government team" or even more often as "the government." For casual taxonomy, there is probably nothing wrong with "the government" being used as shorthand for "not a contractor." But the problem with loose terminology is that over time, we may morph the informal term and confuse it with a more formal one that is associated with legal terminology or actual governing authority.

     A useful analogy is the word "chance" or the phrase "by chance." Generally it describes unplanned events or events unpredictable by known method of prognostication. It is simply a placeholder word that covers our ignorance of the myriad of variables that actually cause events. But as the term is more loosely used, it is not uncommon to hear /read that something occurred "by chance" and realize that the speaker/writer has credited actual power to an intellectual fig leaf. They have actually stopped thinking in terms of what is really happening and fallen back on "chance" or "random occurrence" as a satisfying explanation.

     A similar pitfall awaits us if we too cavalierly use "the government" in our everyday speech. If we begin to ascribe to ourselves the mantle of "the government" we may succumb to power-inspired arrogance when dealing with those who are not in "the government" but instead are the governed. As members of the Air Force, we are not "the government." We neither legislate nor enforce any law upon the citizens of the United States (military justice is of course a separate system provided for within the law). We are public servants established by the U.S. Constitution and governed by the laws cooperatively enacted and sustained by the legislative, executive and judicial branches of our actual government.

     Every Air Force Airman is recruited, paid and delegated specific authorities to act on behalf of the government. But they (we) are not the government. We support and defend the Constitution of the United States as we "Fly, Fight and Win." Our role is to break our enemies, not govern our fellow citizens.