June 03, 2003
Diane Witiak
Adele M. Stan
(202) 639-6419

AFGE National President Bobby Harnage To Testify Before Senate Governmental Affairs Committee

When: Wednesday, June 4
9:30 a.m.

Where: Dirksen Senate Office Building
Room 340

(WASHINGTON, D.C.)—In its continuing battle to protect the integrity of the civilian workforce of the Department of Defense (DoD) from forces of politics, the American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE) will make its case before the Senate Governmental Affairs Committee when National President Bobby L. Harnage, Sr., heads to Capitol Hill Wednesday morning to testify. At issue is a half-baked proposal by the Defense Department for the gutting of civil service protections within the department, along with other destructive measures.

“No group is more concerned or more supportive of measures that truly advance our nation’s security than DoD’s civilian federal workforce,” Harnage explains. "But what the Department of Defense is demanding in the name of ‘flexibility’ is nothing short of exemption from congressional oversight in the way it hires, fires and otherwise treats its civilian workforce.

The Defense Department’s proposal, currently before the Senate, would give broad latitude to the Secretary of Defense--and all his successors--in matters pertaining to the hiring, firing and promotion of employees. With each new Secretary of Defense, new rules could be implemented, creating a revolving and politicized workforce whose very structure could threaten national security.

Thanks to the efforts of Senator Susan Collins (R-ME), chair of the Governmental Affairs Committee, and those of Senators Carl Levin (D-MI), George Voinovich (R-OH) and John Sununu
(R-NH), the most destructive elements of the Pentagon’s original proposal, which passed the House largely intact, do not appear in the Senate version of the bill, which protects the rights to due process and collective bargaining that are threatened in the House bill.

Yet, even in the Senate bill, an ill advised, individualized “pay for performance” scheme to replace both the GS and FWS remains. The proposal, which has already passed the House largely intact, would grant DoD waivers from essential provisions of Title 5 of the U.S. Code, the body of law that governs federal employment. While proponents of the measure contend that employment prerogatives such as those exercised by private-sector companies would improve DoD operations, Harnage will remind the panel that the Department of Defense is not a private concern created for the making of profits; it exists to protect the American people from harm. Abolishing the protections that maintain a politically neutral civil service could render the DoD prey to cronyism and corruption—circumstances that could have grave consequences in troubled times.

Read testimony of President Harnage

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