(WASHINGTON) American Federation of Government Employees National President John Gage today issued the following statement in reaction to testimony given on June 9, by Secretary of Homeland Security Michael Chertoff before the House Government Reform Committee:
We applaud Secretary Chertoff for implementing a second stage review of the Department of Homeland Security to, in his own words, “identify ways we can better manage risk in terms of threat, vulnerability and consequence.” Secretary Chertoff noted that this review and risk assessment will enable the development of a “coherent set of priorities about how we deal with homeland security.” For the sake of homeland security, these principles must be developed. However, as best as we can determine, frontline employees have not been consulted in this review. It would be a mistake to overlook the thousands of dedicated men and women who secure our homeland and not take into consideration their practical assessment of DHS efforts, their years of experience or their expertise.
Furthermore, it is unfortunate that Secretary Chertoff advocated in his testimony swift implementation of MAX HR, the proposed personnel system for DHS. It only makes sense that MAX HR be evaluated for how it conforms to the priorities which have yet to be determined. In light of the fact that the second stage review is still underway – which will give rise to developing coherent priorities for homeland security – a rush to implement MAX HR without regard for these soon-to-be-determined priorities would be rash and could ultimately prove harmful to homeland security.
We invite Secretary Chertoff to hold a meeting with AFGE so he can learn of the many aspects of MAX HR where the positions of employee representatives and DHS negotiators still remain far apart. On many of these points of disagreement, the policies advocated by DHS negotiators could have the detrimental impact of making the task of securing the home more of a challenge. Because the stakes are so high, we hope that Secretary Chertoff will reevaluate his rush to implement MAX HR and allow himself the time to correct the flaws of MAX HR in its current form.
AFGE is the largest federal employee union, representing 600,000 workers in the federal government and the government of the District of Columbia.