Former Defense Secretary Mark Esper refuses to leave Pentagon until he can figure out USAJOBS site

“Trump has his timeline. I have mine."

Secretary of Defense Mark Esper stares down at the keyboard while trying to remember his password for the USAJOBS website. His original password was 1-2-3-4-5, according to sources. (Photo by U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Jack Sanders)

WASHINGTON — Defense Secretary Mark Esper has told his staff he won’t leave the Pentagon until he figures out the USAJOBS website, sources confirmed today.

“It keeps saying I’ve got the wrong password,” Esper said of the federal government's primary hiring portal. “I pushed backspace more than anybody today.”

President Donald Trump fired Esper on Monday, months after their relationship soured amid differences over the use of active-duty troops in American cities and whether McDonald’s was better than Burger King.

Trump immediately named counterterrorism czar Chris Miller to the Pentagon's top job, giving the former Green Beret a notable 72-day-long bullet point to add to his resume after he gets fired on Jan. 20.

But Esper is pushing back on the rushed timeline, citing delays in reactivating his USAJOBS account, updating his resume, deciphering overly complicated announcements, and determining which positions he is qualified for.

“Trump has his timeline. I have mine,” said a frustrated Esper while trying to understand the need for two-step verification when applying for federal jobs. “I can’t even have my cellphone in here.”

Aides to Esper said he had spent the morning yelling at his computer and slamming his mouse on his desk out of frustration with the USAJOBS password recovery process.

“Secretary Esper is quickly learning that the stress of being in charge of the world’s most powerful military is nothing compared to overcoming the challenge, confusion, and headaches involved with navigating USAJOBS,” said Sally Anderson, an Esper aide. “I mean, does anyone really know the purpose of an occupational questionnaire? Like, what does ‘VEOA’ mean, anyway?”  

USAJOBS, a famously antiquated and archaic website that no one besides IBM’s Deep Blue can navigate, is a well-known barrier to applying for federal jobs for most people who are not currently federal employees.

Still, many federal employees find the website frustrating and claim the website itself is often responsible for triggering dark thoughts and feelings of potentially hurting others by doing work.

The Office of Personnel Management, which administers USAJOBS, continues to develop new strategies to simplify the federal job application process, which was developed in the 1970s. This month, OPM plans to add the national suicide hotline telephone number to the homepage of USAJOBS, which they intend to cite as their signature 2020 achievement, according to documents released under the Freedom of Information Act.

OPM efforts are unlikely to be immediately useful to Esper, according to officials, who said he continued showing frustration with the process as two Pentagon police officers carrying empty boxes were seen walking into his office.  

“The Secretary of Defense announcement still shows my application status as ‘Pending.’ What does that even mean? I’ve been in the job since July 23, 2019. That’s insane,” Esper yelled.

“Will everyone just calm down? We will get through this together,” Esper said to his staff members, who are all still employed. 

Story written by Paul Silk.


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