Meet the Most Expensive Intern in the World

I’ve never had an intern. To be honest, I could probably use one, what with all the writing, podcasting, more writing, and working social media like Leopold Stokowski in front of a symphony orchestra, but there are rules to getting an intern. You have to be able to give them valuable educational experience and a worthwhile recommendation and while I’m a pretty fair teacher, I’m not sure a college graduate is going to prize a reference from “the one-man content machine and social media ninja” (assuming I call myself that, which I really don’t).

Despite my lack of an intern, I do know that businesses like interns because they are sources of cheap labor. On the other hand, young people trade earnings for learning, contacts, and mentors that pay off handsomely later on in their careers. The system works so long as interns are cheap and businesses pay out in intangibles. When one side gets out of balance, you end up with a huge mess like this one from the U.S. Department of Agriculture:

“OCIO [Office of the CIO] funded an intern program for a total of $2 million which, while funded as a security enhancement project, only resulted in one intern being hired full-time for ASOC [the Agriculture Security Operations Center]… This project is intended to develop and sustain a highly skilled IT security and computer technology workforce.  Expenditures for FY 2010 and 2011 included over $686,000 for development and implementation of a networking website and approximately $192,500 in housing costs for two summers.  While the intern program may be a beneficial step in the long-run, it did little to further the more pressing objective of improving USDA’s IT security.”

I have questions, and I bet you do, too.

  1. Where did all the money go?
  2. Why does a Federal government program need interns in the first place?
  3. What housing costs run almost $100,000 a year? If you put a person up in a hotel room for a whole year at $200 a night, you wouldn’t run a $100,000 bill.
  4. What kind of awesome website do you get for almost $350K a year? Is it the most awesome website in the history of the internet?
  5. Seriously. Where did all the money go?

When we responsible government types talk about the casual waste inherent in big government, this is what we’re talking about. Two million dollars isn’t a lot, weighed against the rest of the $3.8 trillion yearly budget but if you consider there are tens of thousands of government programs, each of which could easily waste a million or two a year, and you can see how easily our money gets frittered away.

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