The reorganization follows similar recent proposals at other agencies, including the Centers for Disease Control and the General Services Administration.
"The proposal continues to advance the president's expectations--of every executive branch agency--to run a well managed, highly efficient, customer-centered, and results-driven organization," said Dominguez. EEOC has been reviewing its organizational structure for three years.
In an apparent attempt to anticipate employee union concerns, the EEOC announced that no jobs will be lost as a result of the reorganization.
Gabrielle Martin, president of the American Federation of Government Employees local that represents EEOC employees, said she was concerned that district offices will have less power as a result of the reorganization. AFGE has also complained that its members have not been asked to comment on the restructuring plans and that the commission needs to hire more staff.
EEOC officials said the agency would attempt to improve customer service by "reducing layers of management and other staff redundancies" and having only one supervisor for every ten employees. Field directors will have more control over their offices and headquarters will have less control, EEOC said.
Members of the commission will discuss the proposal further at a public meeting next Monday.
Military preps for delivering BRAC report
By Ed Tibbetts
A military man in full uniform appeared Tuesday morning at the congressional office of U.S. Rep. Lane Evans, D-Ill., in Washington, D.C. He dropped off materials related to the 2005 round of military base closings and left.
Evans was not getting a sneak peek at the Defense Department recommendations on which bases to close or restructure.
Those are not due until Friday morning.
Instead, the visit was a dry run, congressional officials say, apparently aimed at testing the gears of the machinery that will crank out Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld’s recommendations to the 535 congressional offices about an hour before the Pentagon reveals the news to the rest of the country.
Deliberations over the military’s base closing process have been cloaked in secrecy for months. But as the day of reckoning draws near, the means of delivering the news is beginning to reveal itself.
Pentagon officials will say only that the defense secretary’s recommendations are to be delivered by the statutory deadline of May 16, which is Monday. But staffers in several congressional offices say they will be notified Friday morning, about an hour before the Defense Department holds a news conference to unveil its list.
Meanwhile, in the Quad-Cities, Arsenal Island officials and economic development leaders also are preparing their own plans to deliver, and respond to, the news.
Arsenal Island employs 6,400 government and contract workers and is the second-largest employer in the
Quad-Cities. Its annual impact on the area’s economy is $1.2 billion.
On the installation, plans for delivering the news and answering work force questions may come in town hall meetings via closed-circuit computer or television feeds.
Meanwhile, the commander of the Joint Manufacturing and Technology Center may meet with workers in the Rock Island Arsenal factory, said Joe Findley, vice president of the American Federation of Government Employees, Local 2119.
Gale Smith, an Arsenal spokeswoman, said plans still are being finalized. “It all could change,” she added.
After employees are notified, military officials and the Quad-City Development Group plan to hold separate news conferences to react to the announcement and explain their strategies.
A roster of people familiar with the units on the island and their inner workings has been lined up to help analyze the decision Friday, said Jim Morgan, program director for the Rock Island Arsenal Development Group.
He also said initial plans to hire a high-profile military official to help the island make its case to the Base Realignment and Closure Commission have been scrapped to emphasize local leaders instead.
Once the Pentagon makes its recommendations, the nine-member commission will spend the summer analyzing the data, holding hearings and visiting bases before making its own proposal to President Bush.
That must happen by Sept. 8.
The president and Congress will make the final decision, but they must approve or reject the commission’s proposal in total. There can be no amendments.
One analyst predicted Tuesday that the recommendations from the Pentagon will reflect advice that the government-owned ammunition plants, depots and supply centers be re-engineered and privatized.
Loren Thompson, chief operating officer at the Lexington Institute, also said the military likely will continue following private industry out of the Northeast and Midwest, favoring the South and the West.
There has been speculation over the years that operation of the Arsenal factory could be turned over a private company. But Thom Hart, president of the Quad-City Development Group, did not speculate on what might happen.
“Nothing would surprise me,” he said.
Quad-City area development officials say that while they fear the potential loss of jobs on the island, they also are hopeful the process could result in job gains. Previous base closing rounds have not hurt the Arsenal.
Meanwhile, there is room for at least 2,000 new jobs at the base, officials say. Rumsfeld has said he is seeking to move government employees out of leased space and onto excess government-owned space.
Findley said workers at the factory, while more concerned than they were during the previous round of realignments and closings 10 years ago, are still feeling good about their work in recent years. “We’re in a good position. We’re work-loaded,” he said.
The Defense Department has said that 24 percent of its basing capacity is not needed, although Rumsfeld said last week that the impact of the coming announcement could be half that.
Mounting evacuations add to fliers' list of frustrations
By Gary Stoller, USA TODAY
Add airport evacuations to the list of air travel disruptions like bad weather, mechanical breakdowns and lost luggage.
Rare before the Sept. 11 terrorism, airport evacuations are now commonplace. They more than doubled in 2004 from the previous year and occur at a rate of about five a week, according to new government statistics released at the request of USA TODAY.
Evacuations are disrupting millions of airline passengers' schedules, increasing the stress of travel and putting many in foul moods. They've delayed, canceled or diverted numerous flights, costing airlines millions. In Chicago, evacuations at Midway airport are an issue at City Hall.
Some of the items in baggage that triggered evacuations might be fodder for Saturday Night Live comedy sketches: fishing tackle in Kansas City, Mo.; containers of gumbo in New Orleans; a thermos of coffee in Cleveland; a water balloon toy in Grand Junction, Colo.; a food processor in Los Angeles; and cosmetics in Chattanooga, Tenn.
In several incidents, travelers who caused security breaches were arrested or detained by police for questioning. But not one evacuation anywhere in the USA has thwarted or uncovered a post-9/11 terrorist attack, says Transportation Security Administration Assistant Administrator Mark Hatfield Jr.
Business traveler Colby Reeves recalls as "total chaos" a 2002 evacuation at Chicago O'Hare triggered by discovery of an unplugged screening device. Authorities ordered thousands out of the airport for rescreening.
Reeves, a construction executive from Knoxville, Tenn., says travelers scrambled to go through security again. "No one knew when their plane was leaving, or if it was leaving, so all were fighting to get to the screeners first." The evacuation delayed Reeves four hours.
Last year, security officials evacuated 276 terminals, concourses or other airport areas — 158 more than in 2003, according to the TSA. Airport areas were emptied 59 times during the first 21/2 months this year, meaning evacuations are on pace to increase again in 2005, TSA statistics show.
Hatfield says "better internal reporting" and screening of more passengers may have contributed to the sharp increase in 2004. U.S. airlines carried 62 million more passengers in 2004 than in the previous year.
Several reasons behind evacuations
Others, including aviation security consultant David Forbes, offer possible explanations for evacuations increasing and staying at a high level:
•TSA problems. TSA failures may be clearing some airports unnecessarily. High turnover of screeners has resulted in a relatively inexperienced workforce. Long work shifts have "steadily deteriorated" morale and performance, says Forbes.
A union representing about 1,000 screeners says its members don't have enough training to handle evacuations. "Screeners have told me it was chaos and pandemonium during an evacuation, and nothing like what they trained for," says Bill Lyons of the American Federation of Government Employees.
Hatfield says the TSA has improved training. Screeners have a "keen sense of mission," he says. Morale "can fluctuate" by airport, and the agency is continually trying to find ways to improve it, Hatfield says.
•Poor airport design. Most airport terminals aren't designed for passenger screening, and checkpoints were installed as an afterthought. Because small areas around checkpoints can't always be secured quickly, security officials in many cases need to clear large swaths of the airport when a breach is suspected.
•Tense times. Continuing world turmoil since9/11 has done nothing to ease tensions surrounding airport screening, and security personnel continue to prefer being safe to being sorry, says security consultant Doug Laird.
Carry-ons a security concern
By the TSA tally, 717 evacuations occurred from the time it began taking over security in early 2002 through March 15, 2005. TSA COO Jonathan Fleming says most have been "small scale," involving the area around a screening device.
There have also been plenty of big ones. On Easter, March 27, thousands of passengers were evacuated from three concourses at Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky airport after a screener at an X-ray machine saw what appeared to be a gun. The passenger walked away with the bag before security got another look. It took several hours to rescreen passengers, and hundreds of flights were delayed. The passenger and the bag weren't found.
USA TODAY analyzed media reports and compiled a database of 322 post-9/11 evacuations. The analysis shows most were called after a security concern at a carry-on baggage checkpoint.
In many incidents, screeners called for a second inspection of a passenger or a bag, but the passenger walked away before the search was conducted. Often the passenger or suspicious bag wasn't found.
At various airports, metal detectors used to screen passengers were found unplugged, or people walked through exit lanes.
The TSA usually makes the decision to evacuate a terminal or other airport area, Hatfield says. In some past incidents, airport police made the decision. There is no TSA standard that tells agency officials when to evacuate, Hatfield says. The decision to evacuate requires TSA officials at an airport to quickly evaluate an event and make a judgment call.
The government says that it's doing its job to protect the traveling public, and that security has improved since 9/11. Hatfield says TSA's only concern is security; collateral costs don't matter. Overall, evacuations barely register as a cause of flight delays, accounting for fewer than 1% by one recent measure, TSA says.
But security experts say TSA has cleared many airports needlessly. They point out faulty checkpoint screening procedures like those that existed when hijackers carried weapons past carry-on baggage screening checkpoints on 9/11.
The number of evacuations after the TSA took over "was ludicrous," says Brian Sullivan, a retired Federal Aviation Administration security agent. "It's begun to raise its ugly head again."
According to TSA statistics, 190 U.S. airports have had at least one evacuation. Los Angeles International has had the most: 64.
LAX spokeswoman Nancy Castles says the high number should be no surprise. LAX has more screeners, more screening lanes, more originating passengers and more luggage than any other U.S. airport, she says.
Sept. 4 at Los Angeles International was among the most disruptive days. About 10,000 passengers were evacuated and 220 flights were delayed after authorities emptied four terminals in two separate incidents.
In the first, a passenger bypassed security by running up a down escalator. Three terminals were evacuated for more than three hours, but security officials didn't find him. TSA's local security director, Larry Fetters, told The Associated Press the passenger had gotten off a plane and might have gone back into a secure area of United Airlines' Terminal 8 for his sunglasses.
A fourth terminal was evacuated later after batteries in a flashlight packed in a checked bag exploded.
Dolores Lizak of Hawthorn Woods, Ill., says she and her husband were delayed at least four hours while trying to catch a connecting flight to Las Vegas. "We stood shoulder to shoulder, packed in on the sidewalk," she says. "They could have come around with bottled water. For a long time, they didn't tell us anything."
A phantom hand grenade
Chicago Mayor Richard Daley has criticized the TSA for failing to avoid large-scale evacuations at Midway, including one in November that delayed 41 flights. Authorities cleared the airport after an X-ray screener who had just begun his shift noticed what appeared to be a hand grenade in a carry-on bag.
The suspected explosive was actually a computer-generated image that had been used earlier to test screeners.
Using a $553,000 TSA grant, Chicago officials plan to install large sliding doors that can seal off an airport area after a security breach. The aim is to avoid a mass evacuation and keep other areas operating.
When TSA took over security after 9/11, airport officials often would blow a gasket when the agency decided to clear their terminals. They weren't accustomed to evacuations because the FAA, which previously had jurisdiction, rarely called for them.
"The airports were kicking and screaming that it was their property and they weren't involved in the decision to evacuate," recalls Eric Grasser, former editor of the trade publication Airport Security Report. Stephen Van Beek, executive vice president of the trade group Airports Council International-North America, says coordination between airports and the TSA is much improved.
Alvy Dodson, public safety chief at Dallas/Fort Worth airport, agrees. Dodson says airports and the TSA are getting better at evacuations, but it's still "not as smooth as we want it to be." Whenever several thousand people are evacuated, "it will be problematic," he says.
Airlines can lose millions
Airport evacuations can be expensive.
A two-hour shutdown of a major terminal at an airport like Chicago's O'Hare can cost an airline up to $15 million, says aviation consultant Michael Boyd.
American Airlines spokesman Tim Wagner says evacuations can be a big expense if an airline has to refund tickets, transfer passengers to other carriers or put them in a hotel for a night. Rebooking passengers can eat into ticket agents' time, and employees may have to work overtime, he says.
Christopher Bidwell of the trade group Air Transport Association says flight delays and diversions can cause planes to burn more fuel and increase costs for maintenance, cabin cleaning and catering. New flight crews may have to be brought in, he says.
"We will never make a security decision based on a business evaluation," Hatfield says.
Even frazzled and frustrated passengers understand the need for a high degree of vigilance.
Traveler Kevin Jameson, an accounts manager for a Philadelphia electronics company, says he's been evacuated at Dallas-Fort Worth and at Charlotte. Although orderly, "Both were a pain in the neck," he says. Nonetheless, passengers appreciated the concern for their safety, he says.
The TSA and the airports say they'd like to minimize the number of evacuations. But airline passengers can count on more of them.
The TSA says it has no goal to cut back. If circumstances warrant, we "won't hesitate to do it," Hatfield says.
"Our core mission is to keep dangerous and deadly items" off airplanes.
Bases close ranks on closure
By KEVIN HOWE
Herald Staff Writer
The upcoming announcement of potential candidates for base closure nationally may be causing some jitters among local federal employees, but they won't be talking about it.
Army Col. Michael Simone, commandant of the Presidio of Monterey's Defense Language Institute, has issued a directive to military and civilian personnel under his command to refer any questions about the Presidio's status to the post public affairs office.
"We are receiving many inquiries from local media, public figures, and non-DOD (Department of Defense) organizations about the (Base Realignment and Closure) announcement that is due to be released later this week," Simone wrote in the memo distributed on Monday.
"Should you be contacted by persons seeking comment on the impending BRAC announcement, refer them to DLI's public affairs office and refrain from making any comment in your capacity as an employee of the U.S. Government."
The policy, Simone said, will remain in effect even after Friday's base realignment and closure announcement since the initial list, compiled by Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, still has to be reviewed by the Base Realignment and Closure Commission over the summer and presented to Congress and the president for final decisions in early autumn.
A similar policy has silenced employees and military at the Naval Postgraduate School, Monterey's other large installation.
While the Defense Language Institute is considered an unlikely candidate for closure, the postgraduate school is believed to have been on the Pentagon hit list as recently as two weeks ago. People close to the process said Monday, however, that they understand it has been removed.
"This is the first gag order applied to DLI employees," said Alfie Khalil, president of American Federation of Government Employees Local 1263, which represents approximately 700 civilian employees, including language instructors and staff, at the school.
Some employees are interpreting the directive, he said, as a sign that the language school is on the closure list, that "someone knows something that they're not telling."
The union has its own contacts in the federal government and has been lobbying all along to prevent base closures, Khalil said. "We have a lot of support, a lot of recognition by the Department of Defense."
The Defense Language Institute is undergoing a large amount of expansion, is hiring more people, recruiting more students and trying to expand its campus, he said. "Business is great for DLI. Its mission is vital to DOD."
Simone's directive shouldn't be interpreted as a "gag order," said Army spokeswoman Patricia Ryan.
"It's not an order. It's a reminder."
The school has been getting many inquiries, she said, and "a lot of misinformation is flying around based on incorrect assumptions."
No one at the school, including military officials, knows which installations will be on the closure list Friday, Ryan said. "We want to make sure the information we do give out is correct, and not based on opinion. We're willing to share what we know, but we won't know 'til Friday."
Still, Monterey Mayor Dan Albert has called a meeting at 8:30 a.m. today at the Monterey Conference Center of the Coalition for Research in Education, at Monterey Conference Center to discuss base closures and, if necessary, prepare a strategy if either military school is placed on the base closure list.