Downsizing Initiative Places New York Federal Buildings at Risk
(NEW YORK)—Despite an amendment to the Department of Homeland Security Authorization Bill that would put a halt to downsizing, the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) is aggressively moving to implement an ill-conceived plan that would do just that in the Federal Protective Service, said David Wright, president of the American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE) Local 918, which represents FPS.
FPS, which falls under ICE, is the only federal agency charged with protecting and securing the approximately 8,900 non-military federal buildings in the nation. FPS law enforcement is comprised of police officers and inspectors; however, only police officers are 100 percent dedicated to law enforcement patrol, response and preliminary investigations. President Bush’s FY08 budget proposal, and a subsequent ICE initiative, would eliminate all FPS police officer positions throughout the country, a majority of which are in New York and Washington, D.C.
ICE already has begun to eliminate New York City FPS police officers and many of the services they provide, including counter-terror surveillance and deterrence and emergency response. FPS Region 2, which oversees the protection of federal properties in New York, Northern New Jersey and the Caribbean, already is dangerously understaffed and has been unable to hire much needed police officers, special agents and support staff to replace those who have left the agency, said AFGE Local 918 Secretary James Ward.
“The recent Fort Dix and JFK terror plots demonstrate the continued threat of a terrorist attack in the U.S., and specifically in the New York City area,” Ward said. “It seems obvious that increased vigilance is necessary to protect vulnerable high-profile targets such as federal buildings in New York City and across the country.”
“Due to significant understaffing, FPS Region 2 has begun to eliminate many of the services it provides, including night and weekend shifts and 24-hour patrol and response in New York City and other areas throughout the region,” Ward added. “Terrorists do not limit their activities to business hours. FPS must maintain an adequate, full-time patrol and response force consisting of FPS police officers to ensure the continued safety and security of federal buildings, the employees who work in them, and the guests who visit them.”
“The proposed reduction in officers is a rehash of old plans that never fully panned out,” Wright said. “The staff cuts are deficit-driven, and not a risk analysis as management says.”
On April 18, Wright and Ward each testified before the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure on FPS downsizing, and on May 1 Wright testified before the House Committee on Homeland Security on the direction of FPS. As a result of these hearings and additional AFGE lobbying, the House included an amendment to H.R. 1684, the Homeland Security Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2008, which prevents the reduction of personnel within FPS. H.R. 1684 was approved by the House and referred to the Senate for action.
The American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE) is the largest federal employee union, representing 750,000 workers in the federal government and the government of the District of Columbia.