WASHINGTON, D.C.-In a blistering speech delivered today in New Jersey, President Bush touted his administration's record on homeland security, but failed to mention the hardships heaped upon officers of the Border Patrol and Bureau of Customs and Border Protection by his political appointees.
"Nowhere in the president's speech did he mention the fact that the entire Department of Homeland Security today operates under a hiring freeze-meaning that when a Border Patrol officer leave or retires, that officer can't be replaced in what is an already understaffed force," said John Gage, national president of the American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE), which represents some 20,000 employees of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS).
"On our nation's borders, officers work with faulty equipment and expired body armor even as they face ever more violence in their daily work," Gage continued. "When we surveyed these officers we found that while 91 percent agreed that preventing terrorism is an important part of their job, a majority felt they hadn't been given the tools or training to adequately fulfill that mission.
"The president takes credit for creating the Department of Homeland Security, which he opposed and held up for months," Gage added. "He congratulates himself for new funds allocated to the Transportation Security Administration, but neglects to note that even as he spoke, his allies are trying to return airport security to the hands of private contractors-just as it was during the attacks of September 11, 2001. Talk about a 'September 10th attitude.'
"The people of New Jersey suffered dearly on September 11th, losing 700 of their citizens in those brutal attacks," Gage concluded. "For the Mr. Bush to exploit their grief by misrepresenting his record is unworthy of a wartime president."