Wednesday, 20 July 2016

In recent months there has been a lot of dialogue about the lack of support from ARRL given to the NTS or National Traffic System. Suddenly the ARRL appears to be taking over control of the service without the consent of the men and women who have worked tirelessly to ensure that NTS functions at a high level each and every day. The following is a a communication from James Wades WB8SIW a long time proponent of NTS.
Glenn VE3GNA

The Death of a Hobby? Some personal thoughts on the current NTS situation

As events continue to unfold during the assault on the National Traffic System, I can’t help but come back repeatedly to the same question:

Why has the leadership of the ARRL declared war on the National Traffic System?

After considerable thought and the examination of numerous possible scenarios, I can’t help but come to one conclusion: They haven’t declared war on NTS. Rather, they are stealing it!

This is my theory:
For at least twenty-five years now, certain individuals in ARRL leadership has been promoting a narrative that long-haul communications capabilities are no longer necessary. This narrative appears to operate on several levels:

1. Traffic networks are no longer relevant, having been replaced by such programs as local packet radio networks, WinLink-2000 and a host of digital modes readily available to ARES.

2. The marginalization of NTS serves to concentrate political power within ARES. By degrading NTS, there is less competition for resources; in particular, volunteer hours. There is also less competition for coveted, ego-boosting, “leadership” positions.

3. The transition of ARES from a group of technical specialists and trained communicators into a group of emergency management volunteers serves to enhance the perceived profile of certain ego-fueled individuals engaging with local emergency management. Skill-based activities are not welcomed in some of these groups.

Over time, this narrative of NTS obsolescence drove a variety of ARRL policies designed to isolate NTS and push it to the margins of the radio fraternity. Consider these actions (or inactions):

* NTS topics were absent for decades from the QST Public Service column.
* Few meaningful feature articles about NTS were published in QST.
* The old “QCD” newsletter was eliminated.
* The STM position was made optional.
* The NTS was zero-funded.
* NTS was systematically excluded from various ARRL public service initiatives.

....and more.

Despite this purposeful marginalization of NTS, numerous men and women kept the faith and did their best to maintain and enhance the NTS program despite what amounted to a contrary agenda originating in Newington and elsewhere.

Recently, a number of active NTS members decided the time had come to make one final push to restore NTS. A tremendous amount of volunteer effort was invested in the program. For example:

* The “Radiograms” e-mail reflector was created.
* Several active STMs and Area Staff Chairmen emerged to push a modernization agenda.
* NTSD was promoted to increase participation and interest.
* The “QNI” newsletter was created.
* New e-mail reflectors emerged to serve the NTS community.

Despite these initiatives, the League continued to marginalize NTS. Yet; many of us continued to persevere. Interest in traffic handling began to rise again. Important NTS issues were confronted in meaningful and constructive ways. People started to take notice, including the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

Suddenly, it seems FEMA was very interested in NTS because of its universal radiogram format; its systematic, nationwide procedures and its dispersed long-haul High Frequency resources. Unfortunately, this interest also had the unintended consequence of exposing the League’s myth of NTS obsolescence as a lie. An organization once thought to be obsolete by the elites within the ARRL was suddenly of value.

As the FEMA inquiry was coming to light, certain ARRL officials were likely also realizing that their own agenda was failing. Despite numerous attempts to “modernize” Amateur Radio according to their own ideas and agenda, certain undeniable and painful realities emerged:

* ARES has been losing member support.
* The emergency volunteer with a hand-held radio was becoming irrelevant.
* Robust local public safety radio systems were seriously minimizing the periodic need for Amateur Radio support during smaller emergencies.
* Younger people were not being attracted to the “new” form of Amateur Radio.
* Most new licensees weren’t interested in the radio art, but were instead interested in access to free infrastructure for “prepping,” Search and Rescue, and off-road activities.
* ARRL membership numbers remained in the doldrums.

Being desperate for a meaningful mission to boost their egos and justify their existence, the Programs and Services Committee and others suddenly found it in the nascent NTS-FEMA relationship. The years of hard work and effort invested by NTS volunteers to restore their program to prominence had suddenly begun to pay off and this likely shocked the ego-centric leadership at headquarters. Undoubtedly, shock and anger, turned to jealousy and rage in certain irrational minds. It then evolved into covetousness; a sort of “we deserve this...not them.”

Desperate to fuel their shallow egos and to massage their personal insecurities, certain leadership officials felt they were entitled to the association with FEMA. Therefore, they embarked on a mission to “steal” the success of NTS. However, to do so, they would first have to decapitate the current NTS leadership in order to seize control of the organization.

The initial target chosen was Joe Ames, W3JY, EPA Section Manager and NTS Eastern Area Staff Chair. When Mr. Ames fought back with a lawsuit to defend his honor and the remaining NTS leadership refused to be herded into the P&SC corral, additional actions were deemed necessary. Within recent days, we have seen:

1. CEO Gallagher issued an imperious letter to certain NTS volunteers dictating policies from his office, including a thinly veiled threat of potential consequences for insubordination.

2. ARRL President Roderick then notified the remaining NTS Area Staff Chairs that their positions would no longer be elected, but rather appointed by ARRL executives, which is contrary to decades of protocol and the NTS Terms of Reference.

Apparently, Roderick, a labor lawyer, has embarked on a form of “union busting,” which has more in common with the Baldwin Felts Detective Agency treatment of striking coal miners and elected officials in 1920s West Virginia than the enlightened approach of a non-profit, membership based organization CEO.

One might go so far as to argue that Roderick, Gallagher and the Programs and Services Committee are little more than thieves. They are stealing the years of hard work invested by NTS volunteers. In the process, they are disenfranchising the average NTS member by violating the NTS Terms of Reference and decades of management protocol. They are removing our elected leadership and replacing them with their own Quislings.

Let’s face facts: Many of us invested decades preserving and promoting NTS despite all of the obstacles placed in our way by the ARRL. Now, suddenly, these thieves want to steal OUR investment of time, money, energy and our recent successes by taking control of our organization.

The League doesn’t have a case. Therefore, their only recourse is the politics of personal destruction. The facts of this recent dispute speak for themselves.

* ALL of the actions taken by the NTS leadership during its dealings with FEMA were above board and honest.
* All of the appropriate communications were in place. No one negotiated any agreements or signed any documents.
* Some of us invested nearly a year designing a first-rate, professional-grade emergency management exercise and evaluation process that proved our professionalism and which stood in vivid contrast to the silliness often seen in other League activities.

In other words...the accusations against NTS leadership are all fabricated!
Sadly, the entire event is demoralizing for all of us. In exchange for our years of hard work, we received only the following:

* A man’s reputation was needlessly destroyed with distortions and lies.
* An entire ARRL Section is in disarray.
* An entire group of ARRL members are being disenfranchised and treated as second class members in the League.
* Thousands of staff-hours, which were invested in designing, executing and evaluating a professional-grade emergency management exercise were essentially rendered valueless.

Is there something worse than this?

Yes! Absolutely there is! For many men and women; an activity that was once viewed as a positive and enjoyable addition to their lives has been severely diminished if not destroyed. Many of us will never enjoy Amateur Radio quite like we once did. A certain level of trust in the fraternity of radio amateurs has been destroyed and the fraternal spirit of Amateur Radio will no longer burn as bright, if at all, for many of us.

There is only one type of man that does this, and he can be classified as a moral imbecile. He is motivated only by his own self-interest. His life is not governed by a moral or ethical calculus. He cares not if his actions diminish the life of another man or an organization. He operates in those gray areas within which the law is insufficient to keep his actions in due bounds with his fellow man. All that matters to him is satiating his own gratification and ego or his desire for power and control. It is this type of man that now populates key positions within ARRL leadership.

Of course, there may be more to the story here. Perhaps the relationship with FEMA also offers access to grant funding for pet associates or for some type of ARRL initiative. Perhaps there are certain organizational dynamics, that pertain to spectrum access and the like. Regardless; the current behaviors are those of an organization suffering from a severe diffusion of responsibility and an amoral approach to governance at best.

Essentially, we are witnessing a theft of the years of hard work and investment made by the NTS community. Having failed in their own endeavors, the Programs and Services Committee and their associates in Newington now feel they have the right to steal our time, life energy and labor.

Like many NTS members, I am greatly saddened by recent events. Amateur Radio was an important part of my life. While I will try to find the joy and satisfaction of NTS in whatever form it takes in the future, it will be a difficult journey at best. I do know this much; Amateur Radio will never be the same for me. However, I can sleep well at night knowing that I, and my associates, acted in good faith and with honor.

I sincerely hope we can all get back to a place where we can find pleasure and satisfaction in our traffic work, with or without the ARRL.


James Wades, WB8SIW