(WASHINGTON) - Despite an amendment to the Department of Homeland Security Authorization Bill that would put a halt to downsizing, Immigration and Customs Enforcement is aggressively moving to implement an ill-conceived plan that would do just that in the Federal Protective Service, the American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE) today said before Congress.
AFGE Local 918 President David Wright testified on May 1 before the House Committee on Homeland Security regarding “The Direction and Viability of the Federal Protective Service.” AFGE represents some 80 percent of the FPS workforce, which falls under Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).
The Federal Protective Service (FPS) is the only federal agency charged with protecting and securing the approximately 8,900 non-military federal buildings in the United States. However, President Bush’s FY08 budget proposal includes an initiative that would cut hundreds of already scarce FPS jobs and restructure the agency.
“ICE is taking every step to reduce the FPS workforce and FPS is losing experienced law enforcement officers on an almost daily basis,” Wright said. “Congress must intervene and put a halt to this reorganization until longstanding FPS funding issues are resolved. The FPS ‘fees for service’ and ‘accounts receivable’ funding mechanism is the root cause of FPS’ fiscal and organizational dilemma.
“The proposed reduction in officers is a rehash of old plans that never fully panned out,” Wright said. “The staff cuts are deficit-driven, not a risk analysis as management says.”
To the apparent dismay of many of the Committee members, FPS Director Gary Schenkel stated that with the staff cuts, there still would be enough officers to do the job and that there need not be a licensed or sworn officer at every facility.
“There already are not enough officers and cutting jobs would put us at a lower level than the day of the Oklahoma City bombing,” Wright said. “Higher level facilities must have federal guards, and any major metropolitan area with a concentration of federal properties should have a response force.”
At the hearing, there were a number of questions regarding FPS’ placement in ICE and not as a stand-alone agency within DHS. DHS Deputy Secretary Michael Jackson on April 18 testified that FPS needed a “big brother,” Wright said. “[FPS] needed a big brother. We needed Wally Cleaver but we got Eddie Haskell.
“ICE is starving FPS of all its resources and is taking every step to privatize the entire agency,” Wright added.