The departures pushed the number of vacancies to 57 out of 166 positions for paramedics. As many as 30 more emergency medical workers, including paramedics and less-trained technicians, could leave by July, according to a draft report prepared by the council's Judiciary Committee.
"We have to ensure we have adequate medical attention on these calls," said D.C. Council member Phil Mendelson (D-At Large), chairman of the committee. "I do have a sense that the public is now safe, but that doesn't mean there isn't a problem lurking."
Adrian H. Thompson, chief of the D.C. Fire and Emergency Medical Services Department, said he is concerned about the shortage, adding that the city is taking steps to retain and recruit paramedics.
Salaries for D.C. paramedics range from about $40,000 to $54,000. Fire officials and paramedics said they believe that medical workers were leaving mostly because they could get far better retirement benefits elsewhere. D.C. officials are planning to study ways to boost retirement benefits for paramedics, officials said.
Thompson and other top fire officials said the staffing shortage is not as dire as it appears because response times are improving and the department is evolving in the way it approaches emergencies. The department handles about 110,000 medical calls a year.
Besides full-time paramedics, the city has 33 paramedics who double as firefighters. Most of them ride fire engines or firetrucks, which also respond to emergency calls, officials said. Ten more dual-trained rescue workers are scheduled to hit the streets in the next month, they said.
Fourteen paramedics have transferred to become paramedic/firefighters since 2003, fire officials said. They said they have a total of 161 employees trained as paramedics, a number that has been fairly consistent in recent years.
The department's long-term goal is to turn all paramedics into firefighters, giving officials greater flexibility in responding to calls and emergencies. But many paramedics said that forcing them to take on firefighting duties is not a solution because the jobs are very different.
They said the changeover, in the works for years, has been taking so long that the department has been forced to alter the way it deploys ambulances on medical calls.
On 12 of 14 advanced life-support ambulances, the department now teams a paramedic with a less-trained emergency medical technician. In the past, the ambulances were staffed by two paramedics.
Paramedics say such deployment can hurt care because the EMTs cannot perform as many medical procedures, reducing help at an emergency scene.
"They are watering down the service by splitting paramedics," said Gary Hankins, a union consultant who represents a newly formed group of paramedic supervisors who are concerned about the direction of the department.
Union officials said the problems will grow worse if the departures continue.
"We don't have the personnel that is going to make this system function effectively," said Kenneth Lyons, president of Local 3721 of the American Federation of Government Employees, which represents the medical workers.
Fire officials said that response times have improved in the last year. Last summer, the department responded to critical emergencies within eight minutes 65 percent of the time. The department last month met that goal 77 percent of the time, officials said.
Pentagon Revises Contractor Rules
By Renae Merle
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, May 7, 2005; E01
The Pentagon issued new regulations this week governing the conduct of civilian contractors who accompany soldiers overseas, including thousands providing security, fixing equipment and cooking meals in Iraq and Afghanistan.
In explaining changes in the rules, which were proposed in March 2004, the Pentagon said there was an "urgent need" for them. Pentagon and industry officials said yesterday that the rules codify existing policies and informal practices but disagreed about whether they will be enough to address all the difficult issues that have arisen with the increased number of civilians, many of them armed, working in a war zone.
The final regulations, published Thursday in the Federal Register, state, for example, that military "combatant commanders" will establish a plan to protect the civilian workers, unless the company's contract says otherwise. It is also up to the military commander to decide whether the contractors can carry government-issued or privately owned weapons and wear military clothing.
For the first time, the rules will allow the military to track the number of contractors accompanying troops overseas. Some of the provisions do not apply to foreign employees hired by the defense contractors, the explanation of the rule noted. They take effect June 6.
The Pentagon began developing the regulations in 2003 as thousands of contractors left for Iraq and sometimes found themselves unclear on the rules. "There had been small companies showing up thinking that housing and everything would be provided for them," said Doug Brooks, president of the International Peace Operations Association.
The use of contractors in Iraq has been controversial because more than 250 civilians have been killed, many of whom were performing duties that previously had been handled by the military, and because of reports of misspending by some of their companies.
Rep. Janice D. Schakowsky (D-Ill.), who has been critical of the role of contractors in the war zone, said in a written statement that issuing the regulations now "means contractors have been operating in Iraq and Afghanistan in a major way without knowing what rules apply to them and without our forces being given clear directives on the chain of command as it relates to contractors." She added: "And this rule does not answer those questions in a meaningful way."
The American Federation of Government Employees had proposed in its comments scaling back the use of the contractors all together. "The bottom line is that contractor personnel can always walk away with relative impunity," Jacqueline Simon, public policy director for the group, said yesterday. "And no rule can change that."
The State Department is working on separate rules that will govern contractors working on some reconstruction projects, the Pentagon said.
One of most controversial issues the rules addressed was whether contractors should be allowed to carry weapons to protect themselves. The proposed rule said they must have the express permission of the combatant commander. Several commenters complained that this was unrealistic, while another expressed concern it would spawn "armies of mercenaries."
United Technologies Corp. said in its comments that allowing contractors to carry weapons issued by the military "may create unmitigated liability for contractors in the event of injury or loss of life resulting from intentional use or accidental discharge of such weapons."
Stan Z. Soloway, president of the Professional Services Council, a trade group of contractors, noted one provision said that contractors are responsible for educating their employees about U.S. and local laws. "That is a pretty broad prescription" and will be difficult to meet, he said.
Former Farsi instructor at DLI files bias complaint
Teacher says she is victim of retaliation for her whistle-blowing
By KEVIN HOWE
Herald Staff Writer
A former instructor of Farsi at the Defense Language Institute at the Presidio of Monterey has filed a discrimination complaint against the school that contends she has been denied employment and promotion at the school on grounds of gender, religion, age and ethnicity.
Ferial Ardalan said she has been out of work since October 1995, when she was terminated from the teaching post she had held at DLI for six years.
She applied for two positions in the school's Persian department as language instructor and testing officer last August, she said.
Ardalan also believes she is the victim of retaliation for her "whistle-blowing" about malfeasance in language course development.
The demand for Farsi speakers fell after the end of the war against the Russians in Afghanistan but surged again with the U.S. war against the Taliban that began in 2001.
A number of former Persian teachers were rehired then by DLI, Ardalan said, along with others, less qualified and with little teaching experience. Some, she said, are spouses of instructors and do not have college degrees.
Ardalan, 63, holds a bachelor's degree from Teheran University and a master's degree from Southern Connecticut State University.
Military records show that Ardalan was terminated for being absent from work without authorization in September 1995.
Records also show numerous letters detailing complaints filed by her with the Inspector General's office, Rep. Sam Farr, D-Carmel, and Col. Michael Simone, commandant of DLI. Her letters contend that the school was using outdated course materials, that students were abused by instructors in classes, and that she was once threatened by a supervisor with a knife. Ardalan said the threat caused the absence that led to her termination.
Some of Ardalan's comments about courses and treatment of students were found to have merit, according to the Inspector General's Office.
She also has a lawsuit pending in the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeal against Monterey Institute of International Studies, alleging discrimination in hiring when she applied for jobs in course development. No hearing date has been set on that appeal.
Ardalan said she learned in 2002 that Monterey Institute had several vacancies that had been posted on the Internet. MIIS, she said never responded to her applications.
The union representing instructors at DLI, Local 1263 of the American Federation of Government Employees, has interceded for Ardalan in the past in an effort to reach a settlement in her case, said union President Alfie Khalil.
"We talked about a specific amount of money," he said. "She refused and went back to the EEOC to pursue her complaint."
The union encourages employees to seek redress of complaints, Khalil said, and "this is the only way she can get a ruling." In his view, Khalil said, management should have resolved Ardalan's case sooner.
Local 1263, he added, is willing to help her out again.
Army spokeswoman Patricia Ryan said the school cannot comment on a discrimination complaint that is in the process of being investigated.
Nervous depot awaits decision
By Reid Coploff , Staff Writer
Tension is high at Tobyhanna Army Depot, but there's nothing anyone can do about it.
"You can feel it," said Keith Hill, of Eynon, president of the American Federation of Government Employees Local 1647. "You can actually feel it in the air. It's a helpless feeling, to tell you the truth."
For the first time in a decade, the Department of Defense will release a list of military installations targeted for closure within a week.
That list will form the basis of the Base Realignment and Closure Commission's work.
The nine-member panel will travel to installations nationwide and hold hearings before submitting a list of bases to close Sept. 8. Bases on the initial list can be recommended for closure or for gaining jobs.
If a base is not up for closure on the first list, it's likely safe because seven of the nine commissioners would be needed to add it.
For now, though, workers and supporters of Tobyhanna, which was listed for closure in 1995, then spared, must sit and wait.
Northeastern Pennsylvania's biggest employer, Tobyhanna Army Depot is the largest electronics maintenance facility in the Department of Defense, repairing and overhauling electronics equipment for all branches of the military. In the past four base-closure rounds, it's gained over 2,000 jobs, bringing the total to 4,400.
"Sure (being closed) is a concern, but there's nothing they can do about it at this point in time," Hill said.
"I think they're more or less resigned to the fact that what will be will be, and whenever the list comes out, then the fight begins. If there is a fight."
Some good news for base supporters nationwide came late last week as Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld said he expects to close less than half the 25 percent excess capacity he had initially predicted.
Until the first list is released, though, workers will try to simply do their jobs.
"We're focused on our mission," said depot spokesman Kevin Toolan.
The list has to be published in the Federal Register by May 16. To do that it will have to be provided to the printer one business day before, said Christopher Hellman, defense budget and policy analyst for the Center of Arms Control and Nonproliferation.
The Defense Department will probably want to avoid releasing the list on Friday the 13th, so it will likely come Tuesday, Wednesday or Thursday, Hellman said.
But it's not just Tobyhanna employees whose necks are on the line. For businesses close to Tobyhanna, the list could mean their livelihood as well.
About 40 percent of the business at the Black Horse Pub and Grill, located just 200 yards from the depot's back gate, comes from the depot, said owner Kathy Kleibert.
When she bought the business just a month ago, Kleibert knew about the looming closings, but felt confident Tobyhanna would make it through and business would carry on as usual.
John Lombardi, owner of Lombardi's Tobyhanna Brookside Inn off Route 611 about a mile from the depot, faced a similar situation when he opened his business just two weeks ago.
Most of his lunch customers come from the depot, Lombardi said.
"It'd be a shame for it to leave the neighborhood," he said. "But I really don't think it will."
Edie Kuebler, owner of Kuebler's Mountain Hotel, said six full-time residents of her hotel work at the depot, so closure would affect her business.
The Scranton and Wilkes-Barre areas would be more heavily impacted, though, because more workers come from there.
Just under 70 percent of the depot's workers live in Lackawanna and Luzerne counties. Meanwhile, over 97 percent of the depot's employees live in one of the seven counties that make up the Northeastern Pennsylvania Alliance, a nonprofit business coalition. The alliance formed the Blue Ribbon Task Force to support Tobyhanna in 1995 and has been at the forefront of the base-closure process this year, holding news conferences and tours and hiring a lobbyist to identify the depot's strengths.
Border patrol heads south
Another inland sweep unlikely
By Brenda Gazzar
Saturday, May 07, 2005 - Nearly a year after Border Patrol sweeps in Ontario, Corona and other inland California cities roiled the nation, the Border Patrol has gone south.
And so, too, has the debate.
Still, even as politicians and the public argue over illegal immigration and how best to secure the border between Mexico and the United States, many still wonder whether the Border Patrol will be back.
Some count it a victory that the sweeps, which netted more than 400 illegal immigrants in Southern California last June, have not been repeated. Others clamor for more such arrests.
Border Patrol officials, however, say it's not likely.
"We cannot focus most of our attention on interior enforcement when Arizona is an area of concern," said Salvador Zamora, a spokesman for U.S. Customs and Border Protection. "Our priority is not the Corona, Ontario areas in comparison to Phoenix, Douglas, Naco, Arizona, where 300 plus people die every year. You weigh your options. Those are the hard decisions the managers have to make."
Last year's sweeps prompted protests and counter protests over the appropriateness of such operations, with many arguing that the Border Patrol had overstepped its authority.
The sweeps, conducted by the Temecula station's 12-member mobile patrol group, came to a halt after a top official said that the group acted within its legal authority, but without prior approval from U.S. Customs and Border Protection headquarters in keeping with policy.
A Border Patrol union representative, however, says that to his knowledge, no such policy had existed before the public outcry.
"It wasn't the policy. It was never the policy," said T.J. Bonner, president of the National Border Patrol Council. "That was a policy they generated after they received complaints from members of the community and members of Congress."
Such arrests - usually considered interior enforcement actions - "would normally be conducted by Immigration and Customs Enforcement" perhaps with Border Patrol assistance, said Asa Hutchinson, former Under Secretary of Border and Transportation Security, at the time.
ICE, which was created as part of the Department of Homeland Security in 2003, investigates suspected customs and immigration violations within the country.
While the actions of the Temecula station's roving patrol group were "very productive," the border - particularly the Arizona border now - is a greater priority, Zamora said.
More than four months after Hutchinson's remarks, a joint memorandum dated Nov. 16, 2004, clarified the roles of each agency on interior enforcement and other issues.
"We are a brand new agency, newly established," said Manny Van Pelt, a spokesman for ICE. "It's part of the growing process."
According to the memo:
- The Border Patrol's job is to patrol the border and apprehend illegal immigrants in transit. Any operation not directly on the border should have "a direct nexus to interdicting illegal cross-border activity."
- Immigration and Customs Enforcement's job is to investigate and dismantle smuggling operations, track "special interest" and criminal immigrants and conduct interior enforcement operations in jails, on work sites and against illegal immigrants already living in the country.
Even the memo, however, is subject to debate by those on opposing sides of the immigration issue.
To American Civil Liberties Union attorney Ranjana Natarajan, it's confirmation that the Border Patrol was out of line in conducting sweeps in inland cities.
"This seems to suggest that the Border Patrol is not responsible for running around Southern California asking people about their immigration status and arresting them, when they have no connection of just having entered through the border," she said.
To Rich Pierce, executive vice president of the National Border Patrol Council, it represents the end of interior enforcement.
"This gives (illegal immigrants) a free pass," he said. "They know no one is actively looking for them once they make it past the border."
Nearly 11 million illegal immigrants are believed to live in the United States, according to the Pew Hispanic Center. In 2003, about 14,400 "smuggled aliens" were arrested nationwide due to immigration violations, a 79 percent decrease from a high of about 68,000 in 1995, according to the Office of Immigration Statistics.
ICE doesn't typically target individuals or conduct sweeps like those done by Border Patrol last June. That is due to new priorities and the changing face of immigration enforcement in the post Sept. 11 era, Van Pelt said.
"The old days of chasing after individuals is not as productive as going after the criminal networks, the human smuggling networks, the organizations that are bringing the illegal aliens here," Van Pelt said.
"We're concentrating on critical infrastructure" such as shipyards, airports and nuclear facilities, he added later. "We have to prioritize where our limited resources go."
Some facts about the job of correctional officer
May 7, 2005, 12:36 PM EDT
Some information about the job of correctional officer, provided by the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics in an assessment which emphasizes two points: "The work can be stressful and hazardous. ... Job opportunities are expected to be excellent."
_Employment: Correctional officers hold close to 500,000 jobs. As of 2002, about 60 percent were in state prisons; most of the rest were in local jails. About 16,000 jobs were in federal prisons, another 16,000 in privately owned prisons.
_Duties: Officers enforce prison rules, supervise inmate work assignments, search for contraband, settle disputes between inmates, conduct inspections of cells, mail and visitors.
_Equipment: Officers generally work unarmed, equipped with communications devices so they can summon help if needed. In high-security prisons, officers often monitor inmates from a centralized control center with aid of closed-circuit TV cameras and computer tracking systems.
_Working Conditions: Every year, numerous officers are injured in confrontations with inmates. Some institutions are well-lighted, temperature-controlled and ventilated; others are old, overcrowded, hot and noisy.
_Training: In New York state, candidates must complete 12-month training program, including at least eight weeks at training academy. New federal officers must undergo 200 hours of formal training in first year of employment and complete 120 hours of specialized training at Federal Bureau of Prisons training center at Glynco, Ga.
_Job Outlook: Thousands of job openings expected annually. Some local and state corrections agencies have difficulty attracting and keeping qualified applicants, largely due to low pay and concentration of jobs in rural areas. Layoffs are rare because of increasing inmate populations. Officers may join bargaining units, but are not allowed to strike.
_Earnings: Median annual earnings were $32,670 in 2002. Median was $40,900 at federal prisons, $33,260 at state prisons, $31,380 at local jails, $21,390 at private prisons.