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Speaking in Tongues

Went to Germany last weekend to visit my sister, which is how I ended up at dinner with an analyst from the Department of Defense, another from the State Department, and three Scullies. Scully is my term for a female FBI agent, not theirs, but I thought I’d join in the spirit of their lingo heavy conversation. Never mind we were eating at a Greek restaurant in Stuttgart—ordering was a breeze compared to trying to follow the dinner table conversation. First there was “bu” this and “bu” that, as in the first syllable of Buick, which I had to have explained to me as shorthand for the bureau. Then there were IAs and IRs and lots of ASACS. (I gleaned that anything that starts with an “I” stands for intelligence but an ASAC remains a testicular sounding mystery.) Did I mention CDC and ACDC? Both refer to some kind of counsel, the latter surely being the coolest title a lawyer can ever expect to have. I spend half my corporate life trying to keep track of an ever evolving onslaught of special projects and programs and roadmaps with names like Bolt and Tango or meaningless three-letter acronyms (yesterday I was informed by my colleagues in a call that no less than three projects were running under the acronym of DCS so could I please spell it out). In short, I was pretty sure my current monolith of an employer had swept the category of code name proliferation. Imagine my surprise at discovering that the federal government crushes the private sector. The disappointing thing was that all this code was facilitating the same kind of banter you’d find at any old corporate campus water cooler: all about re-orgs and unfair promotions—how did that guy get the post in Barbados? — and pain in the ass audit and compliance requirements. Admittedly when the bitching turned to bosses the State Department employee sounded a little more glamorous. He reports good reviews of Hilary—a vast improvement over Condie and Madeleine and perhaps on par with an old favorite, Colin.

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