In a phone conversation with the Editorial Board of The Times yesterday, a spokeswoman said the translator began work on June 12. All correspondence from known terrorists is monitored, she insisted. Even if this were the case -- and it would be incredible if one translator were sufficient, presuming help from other federal agencies -- it's clear the bureau isn't being ambitious enough. The bureau needs to ask for, and Congress needs to deliver, money to hire additional Arabic speakers.
Speaking to The Times, Philip W. Glover, the president of the American Federation of Government Employees' Council of Prison Locals, proposes that the bureau build incentives into salaries to attract and retain Arabic speakers and speakers of other languages relevant to national security. Something simpler could suffice: Messrs. Grassley or Schumer could insert a few million dollars into an appropriations bill to hire a few dozen Arabic speakers.
The problem of radical Islamism is hardly a new one in federal prisons. In 2003, the bureau came under fire for inadvertently hiring chaplains who follow Wahhabism, the radical Islamist doctrine to which Osama bin Laden subscribes. The Department of Justice's inspector general concluded that "the BOP typically does not examine the doctrinal beliefs of applicants for religious service positions to determine whether those beliefs are inconsistent with BOP security policies." It recommended screening for religious beliefs.
Terrorists in prison no doubt want to keep striking the United States, and will make inroads into the unknown but large number of potential converts our prisons hold. The bureau should hire more skilled people to watch them. If Congress were to appropriate a few million dollars for that purpose, the funds would be a drop in the bucket of federal appropriations. But the benefits would be substantial.
DHS defends new personnel rules against unions' assault
By Karen Rutzick
The Homeland Security Department responded Friday to an attempt by a group of labor unions to halt the introduction of new personnel regulations, arguing the effort is unwarranted and contrary to public interest.
The department filed a motion opposing an injunction that several unions requested on June 22. The National Treasury Employees Union, the American Federation of Government Employees and three other unions filed a motion in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia asking a judge to stall the slated Aug. 1 implementation of the rules.
If the unions are successful, DHS employees would continue to operate under current regulations until the legality of the new regulations are decided. A hearing on the motion is scheduled before Judge Rosemary M. Collyer on Thursday.
Union officials criticized a number of elements in the new personnel system, including the introduction of a pay-for-performance system, a reduction of independent oversight for DHS disciplinary procedures and an alleged failure to meet employee collective bargaining rights.
DHS said its system will merge numerous federal agencies into one and "enable the department to respond quickly and effectively to evolving threats to the nation's security."
DHS said an injunction would only prolong "inflexible procedures" and "ultimately frustrate and undermine the central objective...which is to enhance (not impair) the department's ability to deal flexibly and effectively with the scourge of terrorism."
In a memorandum explaining their motion, the unions said, "The implementation of the regulations on Aug. 1 will result in multiple irreparable injuries to the unions and the employees they represent."
By law, the unions must prove "irreparable harm" in order to get the temporary halt. DHS argued in its response that the unions' alleged irreparable injuries are "largely speculative and theoretical and therefore wholly insufficient to establish either standing or irreparable harm."
NTEU argued in the motion that employees at the Customs and Border Protection bureau "will be subject to reassignment from, for example, a seaport on the East Coast to one on the West Coast without being given any choice, or voice, in the matter."
DHS maintained that the unions could not prove this will occur. It cited Robert Smith, a human resources manager at CBP, as saying that CBP has never required such a reassignment, despite the fact that it has the power to do so even now.
Arsenal employees refuse to bail out until they learn about jobs
DAVENPORT, Iowa Most of the workers whose jobs are on the line at the Rock Island Arsenal in the Quad Cities have decided to stay until a final decision is made.
Some two-thousand workers face losing their jobs under a planned military reorganization. But a survey of the agencies that could be transferred shows only a handful of people have taken other jobs or retired since the Pentagon's announcement in May.
Tom Esparza of the local American Federation of Government Employees says he doesn't think there's any panic, but people are holding their breath and watching what happens very closely.
The Defense Department recommendations still must be reviewed by the Base Realignment and Closure Commission and approved by President Bush and Congress.
EEOC Announces New Reorganization Plan...Again
July 11, 2005
This time it’s official: The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission last Friday approved a plan to reorganize the agency by changing the way the Commission’s field offices operate. After announcing the reorganization plan in early May, the EEOC had scheduled another meeting to deliberate and vote on the proposal May 16. However, the Commission announced that it had postponed that meeting to be rescheduled later after EEOC Commissioner Stuart Ishimaru joined union protests against the reorganization proposal.
Following those protests, the EEOC announced it was inviting public comments on the proposed reorganization so that the Commission could consider those comments before voting on the plan Friday, July 8.
EEOC Chair Cari M. Dominguez said the benefits of strengthening the field structure would enhance the agency's enforcement presence and delivery of services; improve the efficiency of its operations; and eliminate or reduce costs. Under the plan, EEOC officials said no jobs would be lost and that all current EEOC offices would remain open. Furthermore, additional offices would be opened in Las Vegas and in Mobile, Ala.
After the Commission approved the “repositioning” plan Friday, EEOC Chair Cari M. Dominguez praised the initiative, which was approved on a 3-1 vote. Ishimaru cast the lone dissenting vote.
"Repositioning will enable the EEOC to build up its front-line staff so that charging parties and the public will get better, faster service," said Dominguez. "EEOC is expanding - not reducing - its presence. All current offices will continue to provide a full range of services, and two new offices will be opened in areas that need more service. More staff will be available for daily interactions with the public.”
During the past two months, Dominguez, Chief Operating Officer Leonora Guarraia and other top EEOC officials met with a host of groups representing the civil rights community, the bar, and labor unions; and with numerous members of Congress, to discuss the plan and field questions. The agency solicited public comments on the proposal, held a public forum June 23 and posted an extensive Q&A on its web site.
As a result of reviewing the input, certain changes to the plan were made including: Moving various counties to jurisdictions of other EEOC offices; and providing that each state and local fair employment practice agency (FEPA) will have a relationship with only one EEOC district office for the purposes of administration of its contract and file review of its cases.
The proposal approved today is the second of three repositioning efforts to put the Commission in a more viable position to carry out its mission, given shifting demographics, a changing business environment, explosive technological advancements, and budgetary considerations, Dominguez said. The first effort involved establishing a National Contact Center, on a pilot basis, as the agency strives to better serve members of the public. The third phase will involve a more streamlined Washington headquarters, with well-defined lines of responsibilities and clarification of roles.
The EEOC cited a letter of support from the president of the National Academy of Public Administration – which had previously urged a similar reorganization within EEOC.
Dominguez said, "It is critical to the Commission's continued viability that this plan be implemented as soon as possible. Any delay will only exacerbate the very concerns that the plan seeks to address and prevent the Commission from hiring new staff, attaining needed budgetary efficiencies and improving customer service."