Defense Secretary Gates to give commencement address at West Point

Members of the American Federation of Government Employees are planning an "informational picket" outside the Academy's gates on Friday, May 22, the day before graduation. The union said it will not demonstrate during commencement, out of respect for the roughly 950 Army cadets who'll receive bachelor of science degrees and commissions as second lieutenants.

"That day belongs to the cadets and they don't want to take anything away from that moment," said union spokeswoman Christina Erling.

Gates has been lambasted for failing to toss out the results of a controversial federal job efficiency study that was initiated by the Bush administration in 2006 and completed in March. The study, known as an A-76, pit West Point's directorate of public works against private contractors. The Ginn Group, Inc. out of Peachtree, Ga. won the contract, upending about 435 federal jobs. Most of those employees live within 40 miles of West Point.

New York lawmakers, from the local to the national level, have asked Gates to cancel the study, calling it a flawed remnant of the old administration.

The Obama White House has banned any new A-76 studies, claiming results were discriminatory and didn't save money.

Reps. Maurice Hinchey, D-Hurley, and John Hall, D-Dover Plains, and Sens. Chuck Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand have all penned strongly worded letters to Gates and threatened legislation to block funding for the study's implementation. Hinchey, speaking at a union rally in Highland Falls last month, called for Gates' job.

Gates has not responded publicly. He asked Secretary of the Army Pete Geren to write a letter on his behalf. Geren said the study will stand.

Union vice president Jim McCabe paraphrased the message as a "screw you," and said West Point's workers would speak for themselves at the upcoming picket, while still making sure the grounds looked "spit and polished" for graduation.

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