Cost of Defense personnel reforms questioned

The American Federation of Government Employees, a union representing about 300,000 Defense employees, is now asking department officials to give specifics on just how much this personnel system will cost to implement.
"Despite the reams of paper outlining details and procedures under the proposed system," AFGE president John Gage said, "little information has been made available to the public on the costs associated with implementing the new system."
NSPS officials, however, said they have not received a request recently from AFGE concerning the price of the personnel system. They said the unions raised the issue in February, when the announcement was published and the Federal Register disclosed all the cost information.
According to that announcement, the department "estimates the overall costs associated with implementing the new DoD HR system - including the development of a system and the creation of the [National Security Labor Relations Board] - will be approximately $158 million through [fiscal] 2008. Less than $100 million will be spent during any 12-month period."
That answer, said Don Hale, president of the AFGE's Defense Conference, is too vague.
We "don't know how they came up with that figure or what that is going to encompass," Hale said.
According to NSPS spokeswoman Joyce Frank, the $158 million takes in the estimated costs for designing and implementing NSPS, including centralized program office operations, training design and delivery, program evaluation, modifications to human resources information systems, and establishment of a National Security Labor Relations Board.
AFGE leaders said the Homeland Security Department, which has a similar personnel system slated to roll out on Aug. 15, awarded a contract to Northrop Grumman Corp. for $175 million, more than NSPS' estimated total cost, "solely for the purpose of designing" the system, not implementing it.
"When has the design ever cost less than the final product?" asked Ron Ault, president of the AFL-CIO Metal Trades Department, arguing the cost of implementing the program will likely outweight the cost of design alone. Ault said estimating the Defense Department's cost based on DHS', it will "probably cost billions to implement."
While NSPS officials said they could not comment on DHS costs, they noted that the "Department of Defense has an existing, robust infrastructure for things like training and information systems, and our costs reflect that."
Hale called the $158 million figure "a bogus number."
"A full week of training for some supervisors, that's a big cost," Hale said. "Just a transfer of some of these job positions is going to be another task and is going to take up a lot of time and a lot of effort for people who are supposed to be doing other things."
The final personnel reform proposal should be published in the Federal Register in the fall, according to Frank.,1413,208~12588~3004801,00.html

New border program gets mixed reviews
Officials still working out kinks in biometrics system
By Brenda Gazzar
Staff Writer
Wednesday, August 10, 2005 - More than 18 months after the initial phase-in of a biometrics-based border inspections program, its effectiveness in deterring and intercepting ineligible foreign visitors, including criminals, remains contested.
The U.S. Department of Homeland Security argues that the United States-Visitor and Immigrant Status Indicator Technology program enhances security while ensuring the integrity of the nation's immigration system and facilitating legitimate travel and trade.
The program collects biographic information as well as digital fingerscans and digital photographs of foreign visitors at visa-issuing posts around the world, and at entry and exit points in the country to authenticate visitors' identities. It also provides watch list checks with law enforcement databases.
"US-Visit is a critical tool designed to enhance the security of our citizens and visitors," said Anna Hinken, a Homeland Security department spokeswoman, in a prepared statement.
But some argue the program is much less effective than it could be since it excludes some groups namely most Mexicans and Canadians from enrolling in the program's entry or exit components.
"I believe that we are not going to stop terrorists if we can't stop the pool cleaners, the bus boys, the other folks that are getting through," said Jessica M. Vaughan, a senior policy analyst at the Washington, D.C.-based Center for Immigration Studies, which released a report this week on the subject.
While US-Visit screening applies to visitors holding non-immigrant visas, most Canadians do not require a visa to enter the country. In addition, Mexicans claiming they will stay less than 30 days, or will not travel beyond the immediate border area more than 25 miles into California are also exempt from screening at landports.
Most Mexican visitors enter using a Border Crossing Card, which is issued to short-term visitors entering for either business or pleasure, Vaughan said. But the biometric features used on these crossing cards are "rarely used" to screen or verify the identity of a foreign visitor, allowing impostors to use them with little risk of detection, she said.
A decision was made early last year to initially exempt those entering with a Border Crossing Card from the program, Hinken said.
"It was our first year for our system being out there," she said. "We wanted to make sure we would facilitate everyone in the system."
But Border Crossing Card holders are fingerprinted when they first apply for a card from the U.S. Department of State, Hinken said. And while most Canadians are not subject to US-Visit, all Canadian travelers into the United States will be required to carry a valid passport or other valid traveler documentation by 2008, Hinken said.
US-Visit is simply a building block, she added, and may be expanded to include some of the excluded groups in the future.
Others argue that US-Visit is an anti-immigrant device that is intended to keep foreigners away, since they must pay for the program. It also fails to address the underlying causes of illegal immigration, said Greg Boos, a Bellingham, Wash.-based immigration attorney.
"What is the best way to address the problem?" he said. "Change the system so (immigrants) have a legal mechanism to enter the United States" and fill positions others don't want.
Charles Showalter, a Pittsburgh-based airport inspector and president of a DHS employees union, said that while US-Visit is an additional tool for U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers, it is not a magic wand to identify all those entering the country with malicious intentions.
"I contend that a dedicated, fully trained specialized Customs and Border Protection officer on the border, who fully understands the sections of law they are to enforce, will produce more adverse actions than some generalist punching keys," he said.
T.J. Bonner, president of the National Border Patrol Council, is no believer in the US-Visit program for several reasons. While it indicates who has overstayed their visa, the resources aren't available to track those people down.
And while it is a tool for law-abiding people who wish to return to the country legally, or earn legal status at some point, a potential criminal or terrorist likely wouldn't care that they are unable to enter the country legally in the future.
"If people think it's going to make them safer, I wouldn't count on that," Bonner said.
US-Visit procedures are in place at many land, air and seaports with international arrivals, and entry procedures are expected to be deployed to the remaining land points of entry by the end of the year, according to the Department of Homeland Security. Exit procedures are still being piloted. The entry-exit program is expected to be fully operational by 2009, Hinken said.

Bursting the Bubble

Labor News / From Intnl. Assoc. of Fire Fighters
Posted by IAFFPR on Aug 10, 2005 - 12:00 PM
Bursting the Bubble
July-August 2005 International Fire Fighter Magazine

Getting outside the “bubble” — out of our IAFF headquarters building in Washington, DC and on the road to talk with you in your stations and with your leaders at state and provincial conventions and regional meetings is an important way for me to better understand what your issues are and what’s really affecting you on the frontlines.

Talking with IAFF leaders and members keeps me focused, so we never get complacent, and so we keep our perspective on what matters to you, the members who pay the freight to keep this union running.

What I see is that we have built a powerful and influential union, and it’s helping us win battles on many fronts.

Denver, CO Local 858 President Mike Rogers reports in this issue on their contract victory that we played a supporting part in securing. And we report on a similar victory for Montgomery County, MD Local 1664 that improves its members’ pensions and other benefits.

At the state and provincial level, Arkansas experienced a big victory in getting a dues deduction bill passed and signed. In Texas, 61 locals won the right to meet and confer, for the first time since 1947. And our brothers and sisters in Manitoba, Canada won important presumptive cancer legislation.

At the federal level, we were able to pass our SAFER staffing legislation, and we’re now working to increase the funding in the coming budget for 2006. And our HELPS Retirees Act (see page 18) is off to a very good start with strong bi-partisan support.

But for every victory we’ve achieved, we still have many of our affiliates engaged in tough battles with bad mayors or non-supportive city councils.

In Detroit, the mayor wants to eliminate 147 fire fighter jobs. In Providence, our members have gone four years without a contract and are now moving forward on a dual path of negotiations and arbitration in an attempt to protect their pensions from the cuts the mayor has proposed. In the twin cities of Minneapolis/St. Paul, the mayors are pursuing similar tracks that attack our staffing levels.

In California, the “Governator” has re-initiated his anti-union “paycheck deception” attack as a November ballot initiative, among other anti-union measures to be voted on while readying his attacks on our retirement plans. In Missouri, with one stroke of the pen in his first week in office, the new governor eliminated collective bargaining rights for public employees — and the newly-elected governors in Indiana and Kentucky followed that lead. In dozens of states, defined benefit pensions are under attack. And our federal fire fighters are facing base closures and a cram-down from the Pentagon on changes to the National Security Personnel System that will eliminate our members’ rights.

These stories show the battles we fight together, and I’m proud to have the personal opportunity, as I travel, in so many places, to tell the story of what this great union means to its members, how it helps in these fights. I’m proud to have the opportunity to show that it works to help them share in the financial success of this country, to protect their jobs and ensure they have fair employee rights, to have the power to win generous retirement systems, and to ensure their families are protected in times of economic and physical disaster.

Every IAFF member should know the role this union plays in helping to improve their lives and livelihoods at the local, state, provincial and federal levels.

So what does your IAFF do? We bring you together as a brotherhood or sisterhood in the strongest, most powerful union of fire fighters in the world.

Our union brings you the political clout to elect fire fighter-friendly politicians, regardless of party affiliation, at every level — critical because your wages, benefits, staffing levels and working conditions are controlled by elected leaders.

We sit on policy and rule making bodies that develop fire fighter and EMS standards for health, safety and scope of work, and we develop wellness initiatives, new equipment and gear to decrease fatalities and injuries.

We provide the best HazMat and WMD training programs available for free to fire departments around the country, and provide continuous leadership training to ensure that local leaders have the resources and knowledge necessary to do the best job possible.

We provide financial analyses of your municipal government, as well as wage and benefit comparisons during contract negotiations and arbitrations.

We assess your city’s response and operational capabilities using our expert GIS analysts and mapping software to help you fight for proper staffing and to battle short-sighted attempts to cut stations or jobs.

We help develop public relations programs to assist affiliates in fights at the local level.

We provide legal services that protect the rights of IAFF leaders when they are illegally disciplined or fired for standing up for you, and we go after those whose negligence causes physical harm and even the death of our members.

And we have developed the IAFF Financial Corporation to provide you with a variety of financial services including the best deferred compensation program, a quality post employment health plan, a home mortgage program, and a group discount on home and auto insurance.

As I continue to travel the continent and talk to members on the floor and leaders in the halls, I will keep bringing back to our committed staff the stories of what you are facing on the frontlines, and we will continue to revise, retool, reinvent and refresh the services we deliver.

Status quo is not what you expect or deserve from your union. And status quo will never be our standard. It’s our job, on your behalf, to stay committed to finding new ways of doing it better, doing more, and expecting nothing less than excellence. I want to assure you that we are committed, like you, to always being on the frontlines for you.

Federal Labor Board Urged Not to Jeopardize National Security by Imposing Unionization on Airport Screeners
8/10/2005 9:54:00 AM
To: National Desk, Labor Reporter
Contact: Justin Hakes of the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation, 703-770-3317
WASHINGTON, Aug. 10 /U.S. Newswire/ -- The National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation recently joined the battle to keep private airport security screeners free from compulsory unionism by filing an amicus curiae (friend of the court) brief at the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB). Certain union lawyers are attempting to persuade the federal labor board into taking the controversial step of allowing the forced unionization of screeners.
The brief responded to a June ruling by NLRB to reconsider a unilateral decision by one of the agency's regional directors to apply the National Labor Relations Act to private airport screeners working for a firm called Firstline Transportation Security operating at the Kansas City International Airport.
In creating of the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) in response to the September 11 attacks, the federal government created a pilot program involving private airport security screeners at five airports throughout the country. All other airport screeners are solely federal employees, and TSA officials have, citing national security concerns, exercised their discretion not to grant monopoly bargaining power to union officials over any of these federal employees.
"This new union scheme is really about raising more forced union dues revenues," said Foundation Vice President Stefan Gleason. "Aside from violating of workers' freedom of association, history tells us that interjecting forced unionism into such sensitive areas could have severe ramifications for Americans."
Foundation attorneys argue that granting the Security, Police and Firefighters Professionals of America (SPFPA) union officials the special privilege to force the airport screeners into union collectives, and ultimately, to collect compulsory union dues, would both undermine national security by destabilizing security screeners' work environment and infringe on workers' freedoms. The Foundation points out in its brief that since wages, training, supervision, and working conditions of private screeners are overseen by TSA officials -- no traditional "collective bargaining" could take place in the first place.
Additionally, the brief lays out the heightened possibility of national security breaches, such as illegal strikes and potential of terrorist infiltration into airport screening positions. Sixty years ago, the courts and Congress learned that Communist operatives had infiltrated numerous unions and manipulated the organizations for their subversive purposes -- including orchestrating strikes against defense-related plants at the behest of the Communist Party. More recently, Sen. John Kyl (R-Ariz.) cited concerns about "an increasing number of instances" where American institutions are being infiltrated by radical Islamic forces.
The brief also documents that government union officials have a long history of ignoring strike prohibitions and engaging in illegal strikes with tragic consequences. For instance, firefighter union strikes have resulted in dozens of deaths, strikes ordered by teacher union officials have led to hundreds of thousands of students being forced out of classes, and illegal so-called "blue flue" job actions (where employees simultaneously "call in sick") orchestrated by police union officials have endangered lives.
Bush administration's TSA budget request faces steep cuts
By Greta Wodele, National Journal's Technology Daily
Congress may cut hundreds of millions of dollars from the amount President Bush requested for the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) and its security programs next year.
The House in May approved $5.7 billion for TSA as part of the bill that would fund the Homeland Security Department in fiscal 2006. But the Senate in July agreed to give TSA only $5.1 billion. The president asked Congress to provide $5.6 billion for the agency, which is the largest within the department.
House and Senate appropriators plan to meet in September to negotiate the final budget numbers before sending the bill to the president.
Lawmakers also refused to meet Bush's request for a $3 increase in security-related ticket fees for airline passengers. The Bush administration estimated the fee hike would have provided TSA an extra $1.7 billion next year. The airline fees are collected to offset the costs of security upgrades and personnel at airports since the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.
Lawmakers adamantly rejected the proposal. "I think both houses of Congress have spoken to that very loudly in the last couple of years," Sen. Conrad Burns, R-Mont., recently told Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff. "And I see no reason why you should pursue that because I don't perceive it to become a reality."
TSA, which Congress created immediately after the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks and before the department itself, is responsible for every transportation system, including aviation, railways, highways, pipelines and waterways. However, funding for aviation security consumes most of the agency's budget. The House approved $4.6 billion for aviation security, and the Senate agreed to $4.5 billion.
Specifically, the House bill included $2.5 billion and the Senate included $2.3 billion for the 45,000 federal screeners at airports. Of that funding, the House directed the agency to spend $130 million to contract private-sector screeners. The Senate included $146 million for the initiative. Since 9/11, Congress repeatedly has capped the number of federal screeners at 45,000 and provided incentives for airports to hire private screeners to save money.
The House also voted to allocate $170 million for TSA to purchase explosive-detection systems to check passengers and baggage at airports. The Senate bumped up the funding to $180 million.
House and Senate appropriators directed the agency to spend not less than $40 million and $50 million respectively on advanced explosive-detection systems, which are smaller and less expensive than existing technology.
To screen cargo in the underbelly of airplanes, the House directed TSA to spend $60 million and the Senate agreed to $50 million. Both chambers said the agency must move toward screening 100 percent of cargo on passenger planes. Lawmakers repeatedly have admonished the administration for not focusing adequate resources on screening more air cargo.
For surface-transportation security, which includes rail, port and mass transit, the House and Senate approved $36 million. That amount was fiercely debated this summer after the terrorist attacks on the London mass-transit system. Several lawmakers attempted, but failed, to add more funding for rail and transit security.
New York Daily News -

Beep: Don't cut JFK screening
Thursday, August 11th, 2005

Queens Borough President Helen Marshall has fired off a strong letter to Homeland Security Director Kip Hawley, urging the agency not to reduce the security screening staff protecting Kennedy Airport.
Marshall expressed great concern in the wake of last month's announcement by the federal Transportation Security Administration that the agency planned to redeploy some screeners from JFK.
With recent terrorist attacks in cities abroad - keeping New York City on high alert - Marshall called for the agency to rethink its plans.
"Frankly, I cannot think of a worse time for the TSA to start rolling back on security at the airports, especially in light of the recent bombings in London," Marshall said in her Aug.3 letter to Hawley.
"I insist that you and your colleagues at the Department of Homeland Security and the TSA abandon your plans to cut back on the number of screeners at JFK," the borough president added.
TSA spokeswoman Ann Davis said yesterday that Hawley has not yet received Marshall's letter. Davis said that over the past few months, the TSA security director at Kennedy already had reduced staff in anticipation of last month's announcement.
"The last time this exercise was taken was in March 2004. At that time JFK was allotted 1,844 full-time equivalent positions," Davis said.
Davis said this year's action will allow JFK 1,682 spots. Yet in time, she said, the airport stands to gain screener positions, as hirings are planned for the future.
Davis said Newark Airport also stands to lose screening staff, but added that LaGuardia, the number of screeners will increase to 828 positions, 76 more than last year's count. JFK, LaGuardia and Newark are all run by the Port Authority.
In her letter, Marshall noted that private partners, executing major expansion plants at Kennedy, also are troubled by possible staff cuts.
Port Authority spokesman Pasquale DiFulco, said the agency's airport superintendent also opposes the plan. DiFulco said the TSA cutback comes at a time when the agency expects 100 million travelers to pass through its airports - including Newark - this year.
Immediately after the announcement, Port Authority Chairman Anthony Coscia also sent a letter to Hawley expressing his concerns about the planned screening staff reductions.

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