May 05, 2003
Diane Witiak
(202) 639-6419

No Government Agency Should Be Above The Law

(Washington, D.C.)—“No government agency, including the Pentagon, should be put above the law. But that’s just what the Defense Department’s sweeping legislation will do,” AFGE National President Bobby L. Harnage, Sr., will tell members of the House Government Reform Committee. The hearing will take place Tuesday, May 6, at 10 a.m., in Room 2154 of the Rayburn House Office Building.

“DoD is trying to rush their legislation through Congress without the normal legislative oversight and deliberation,” Harnage will add. “The scope of this legislation and its wholesale exemption of the Pentagon from basic common sense laws should be a warning that says—go slow. We must take the time to review this proposal thoroughly before considering it.”

Harnage will emphasize that each Secretary of Defense will have sole and unreviewable discretion to do whatever he wants, whether it’s hiring and firing the civilian workforce, listening to Congress, or recognizing the elected representative of the employees.

“This bill rips the heart out of the civil service and virtually guarantees a Defense Department that will be corrupted by politics and cronyism,” Harnage will emphasize. “Their rhetoric is that this is some kind of modernization. But there is nothing modern about cronyism or a patronage system in government.”

“DoD’s own survey of its workers both in and out of its pay for performance demonstration projects tells the story,” Harnage will state. “When asked whether employees thought their performance rating was an accurate picture of their actual performance, a quarter of white employees and a third of minorities said the evaluation system is inaccurate.”

“Our nation’s system of checks and balances is under attack in this legislation. Everyone—even the Secretary of Defense—needs to be held accountable and has to have his power balanced,” Harnage will say. “No Secretary of Defense should be above the law, but DoD’s legislative proposal amounts to nothing more than giving Secretaries of Defense the power to decide which laws and regulations they’d rather do without—even exempting DoD from current environmental and public health laws that protect the air and water in and around our military facilities and the health of the people who live nearby.”

“I urge you in the strongest possible terms to think twice before you hand this power over to each Secretary of Defense,” Harnage will conclude.

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