(WASHINGTON, D.C.)—Bobby L. Harnage, National President of the American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE), today issued the following statement regarding President Bush’s proposal for a Department of Homeland Security:
“AFGE isn’t opposed to rational consolidation for purposes of homeland security. Federal employees who are on the frontlines of law enforcement and domestic security have no problem with efforts to better coordinate their agencies and their work. However, AFGE is concerned that the Bush proposal may not meet the goal of creating the most efficient organization possible to protect our Nation. We will continue to work with Congress and the Administration as this proposal is developed.
“Homeland security and coordination do not require eroding the professionalism and integrity of the civil service.
“For more than a century, America has been able to count on a reliable and apolitical civil service—dedicated to accomplishing government’s important mission rather than pandering to the politics of the day.
“The homeland security effort shouldn’t be an excuse to gut the civil service.
“For consolidation to make things better, not worse, the homeland security effort needs a secure workforce.
“Federal employees do an effective job of protecting America because they have civil service protections that allow them to do so. We do not want to recreate circumstances like in the FBI where workers are afraid to speak out for fear of losing their jobs.
“Americans are best protected when the employees charged with the public’s safety are protected.
“Frontline law enforcement workers need and deserve a seat at the table as the reorganization proceeds. They know firsthand what the problems are, and have many very good ideas on how to solve them. When they’re at the table, they need their civil service protections so that they can speak freely and honestly.
“For the consolidation to work, the agency needs more resources, an end to arbitrary privatization quotas and personnel ceilings, and just as important, a cooperative relationship between labor and management.”
The American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE) is the largest federal employee union, representing 700,000 workers in the federal government and the government of the District of Columbia.