October 17, 2005
Jemarion Jones
(202) 639-6405

Unions, Congressional Members ask Army Secretary not to Dismantle Critical Lock and Dam Operations

(Washington)—The American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE), along with 55 members of Congress, is urging the United States Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) to abandon its plans to outsource the country’s federal Lock and Dam operations and replace federal workers with private contractors. Instead, the unions and members of Congress want the Lock and Dam operations declared “inherently governmental” and remain in the hands of federal workers.

“Look at what happened to FEMA when the government decided to downgrade the operations of a critical agency,” says AFGE National President John Gage. “FEMA’s response to Hurricane Katrina was atrocious at best. We can’t afford to make the same mistake again.”

Federal civilian Lock and Dam operators maintain and operate over 230 Locks and Dams throughout the country. Additionally, the expertise of Lock and Dam operators prevent vessels ranging from personal pleasure crafts to foreign and U.S. flagged cargo ships from getting in harm’s way. Ensuring that reliable and experienced federal employees operate and maintain Locks and Dams is crucial to America's homeland security. Any accident could severely damage the Lock and Dam sections of critical infrastructures, which are vital to the country’s defense needs.

The USACE has declared Lock and Dam operations as eligible for privatization under the Federal Activities Inventory Reform (FAIR) Act. However, AFGE stands in agreement with the bipartisan group of congressional representatives who say that Lock and Dam operations should be “inherently governmental” or, as the FAIR Act states, “so intimately related to the pubic interest as to require performance by federal government employees.”

In a letter to Secretary of the Army Francis Harvey, congressional members led by Rep. Lane Evans (D-Ill.) said, “We believe that the USACE operators and maintenance workers are ‘essential duty personnel.’ The on-site tasks performed by these federal workers are intimately related to the public interest and are vital to maintaining and safeguarding our economic stability and evolving homeland security.”

The letter went on to say, “Turning this duty over to private contractors will only put our inland and coastal waterways, and ultimately the safety and private property of U.S. citizens, at risk.”

“As president of the local that represents USACE workers, we wholeheartedly agree with the congressmen that the on-site operation of our homeland ports, dams, navigable rives, water supply and emergency response are too important to put in the hands of private contractors,” says AFGE Local 584 President Floyd Smith. “The personal safety of American citizens and the jobs of loyal federal employees will be jeopardized if the USACE is allowed to continue with its outsourcing scheme.”

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