Washington—The American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE) salutes the bipartisan leadership of Representative Lane Evans (D-IL) and Ray LaHood (R-IL) in introducing legislation to ensure that operation, maintenance, and repair of locks and dams in the Corps of Engineers is categorized as an inherently governmental function so it can continue to be performed by reliable and experienced federal employees.
The Corps had announced its determination to conduct a privatization review of the work performed by 2,000 employees at almost 200 locks and dams across the nation in order to achieve the numerical privatization quota imposed by the Office of Management and Budget (OMB). Thanks to the leadership of the House and Senate Energy and Water Appropriations Subcommittees, that privatization review was defunded in the FY06 Energy and Water Appropriations Bill—despite strong OMB opposition.
“The importance of locks and dams to the nation’s economy cannot be underestimated,” declared AFGE National President John Gage. “More than half of the states are tied to the navigable waterways system, and a single barge can carry the same amount of freight as 58 trucks or 15 railroad cars. Essential goods transported on inland waterways include coal, grain, petroleum, steel, and chemicals. Any failure to ensure that the nation’s waterways remain safe and navigable could cripple the economy. Also, the potential loss of life and property is substantial if laws are not enforced and facilities are not well-maintained. Enactment of the bipartisan Evans-LaHood bill is imperative if we are to ensure that the nation’s locks and dams remain safe and navigable. At the same time, we encourage the Congress to defund this ill-advised privatization study in the FY07 Energy and Water Appropriations Bill. At a time when the maintenance backlog for locks and dams is staggering, now is no time to waste substantial amounts of money on an 18-month privatization review that is likely to be the most complicated, most expensive, and most ill-advised ever conducted.”
The Corps insists that lockmasters, supervisors who are assigned to some locks and dams facilities, are the only relevant federal employees who are inherently governmental (and cannot be contracted out). Operators and mechanics, who are responsible for the operation, maintenance, and repair of locks and dams, are considered by the Corps to be commercial (and can be contracted out).