June 18, 2002
Diane Witiak
John Irvine
(202) 639-6419

AFGE Responds to President's Homeland Security Bill

(WASHINGTON, D.C.)--The American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE) today decried the Bush Administration's attempt to destroy basic civil service standards for thousands of federal workers who would be folded into the proposed Department of Homeland Security.

According to AFGE, the proposed legislation would grant the new agency's managers blanket authority to set pay and other conditions of employment without regard to existing rules or protections.

"This bill has the potential to allow the new Department to engage in personnel actions that are today illegal, such as picking out individual employees for transfer or removal from their jobs," said AFGE National President Bobby L. Harnage. "In opening the door to hiring and firing on the basis of politics and favoritism, the legislation would impose a modern day 'spoils system,' undermining the nation's long-standing civil service principles that ensure the integrity of our government.

"It fundamentally alters the current system of checks and balances that works so successfully to protect both taxpayers and employees as the important missions of the federal government are carried out.

"The bill would give the Secretary of Homeland Security the authority to establish regulations jointly with the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) to create a 'human resources management system' that could make virtually all current civil service protections inapplicable to employees of the new Department. Further, the legislation is silent on the question of whether the new agency will recognize existing unions that represent more than a third of those who would be moved into the new agency.

"This proposal appears to be an attempt to punish and blame rank and file federal employees for the security lapses that made our nation vulnerable to the September 11 attack. This blame is mislaid, and the punishment unwarranted.

"Homeland security requires a secure work force. Federal employees need the protections of a system that allows them to speak out about mismanagement in the new agency, without fear of losing their job.

"AFGE asks that when the bill is taken up by Congress, it include the continuation of existing union contracts and protections for all employees who currently have such protections. Further, the Human Resources Management System should be applied only to managers in the new agency. If the President wants 'flexibility' to make the new agency effective and efficient, he should direct his attention to those responsible for shaping its mission: the managers and executives, not rank and file federal workers."

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