Homeland Security Watch

News and analysis of critical issues in homeland security

November 17, 2008

Letters to a Young Agency: Obama Writes to DHS, TSA About His Priorities

Filed under: Aviation Security,Organizational Issues — by Jonah Czerwinski on November 17, 2008

During the closing days and weeks of the 2008 presidential race, Barack Obama wrote a series of letters to John Gage, National President of the American Federation of Government Employees, to explain his priorities for the federal workforce if he becomes President of the United States. Then-candidate Obama dedicated one letter to DHS and another specifically to the TSA.

In his letter to Gage about DHS, Obama expressed concerns about DHS workforce policies. The lack of collective bargaining and the unintended consequences of “pay-for-performance” on morale and results served as the core of the letter. Obama intends to restore collective bargaining. He wrote that he will “ensure that each nominee [in an Obama-Biden Administration] has a clear understanding of the labor-management collective bargaining process and my commitment to assuring its fairness. The same goes for my appointments to the Federal Labor Relations Authority and the Federal Services Impasses Panel.”

He stressed that DHS workers should be rewarded for high quality work, but that the Bush Administration’s “failure to fund the initiative [“pay-for-performance” system] guaranteed that rewarding one employee would be at the expense of another. This is unfair and serves to reduce morale, rather than improve it,” Obama wrote.

In a separate letter directed specifically at the TSA, Obama cited issues raised by Transportation Security Officers (TSO) about the need for collective bargaining rights. “Advocating for TSOs to receive collective bargaining rights and workplace protections will be a priority for my administration,” Obama wrote to Gage in late October.

That other DHS officers serving as Border Patrol Agents, Federal Protective Officers, or Capitol Police, for example, all have collective bargaining rights makes this inequity a top workforce priority for Obama. Citing high attrition rates among the TSO workforce, Obama intends to re-examine the Performance Accountability and Standards System (PASS) for TSOs to “determine whether it meets minimum standards of fairness, transparency, and accountability.” If it does not, expect the Obama-Biden Administration to replace the PASS system with the General Schedule wage system used by the rest of the federal government, including other DHS agencies.

This afternoon, I have the opportunity to meet with TSA Administrator Kip Hawley and DHS Secretary Michael Chertoff. I hope to ask them about these plans, as well as current initiatives like Secure Flight.

Share and Enjoy:
  • Digg
  • Reddit
  • Facebook
  • Yahoo! Buzz
  • Google Bookmarks
  • email
  • Print
  • LinkedIn


Comment by William R. Cumming

November 17, 2008 @ 8:51 am

The presence or absence of unions in the national security and homeland security arena is a great distraction. Just as the depot civil service and unionization in DOD vis a vis contractor operations is really a discussion of inherently governmental functions in disguise. Let’s take a look at what “Inherently governmental” fundamentally means. Many departments and agencies are unable to formulate policies, issue legal guidance or let and monitor contracts (that reflect agency and department needs not contractor needs) due to understaffing and underfunding. Interesting that no real oversight, hearings, or discussion in the political science and public administration communities about this issue. Once that policy is set then you can look at how the federal civil service is hired and for want of a better term “regulated.” The potential for disappointed office seekers to overwhelm governmentl leadership in the coming administration is large. DHS for example has 65,000 badged and armed personnel who can retire after 20 years of service, or uniformed military service (Coast Guard). What numbers of DHS personnel have been killed in the line of duty since DHS opening its doors in March 2003? Maybe this is meaningless, but the theory of 20 years and out was originally stress and danger. Many professional police and fire service groups are unionized. So apparently, it does not matter that they are unionized as to overall performance. There are always slackers in any large organization. Let’s deal with first principles before worrying about unions. How about a standard through DHS of 25 years and out with another decade of recall mandatory unless injured or disabled during the first 25 years. And a special rate if involved in the civil service version of the DOD “Combat Zone.”

Comment by Beth

November 18, 2008 @ 12:13 am

Hopefully, President Elect Barack Obama will finally see that the 9/11 Commission, DHS Oversights and acknowledge, honor, compensate and remember those who DHS has ignored subjecting lunacy for legacy. My husband, Vietnam Veteran and Federal Police Officer detailed to the WTC 9/11 clean up without any personal protective equipment, hazardous pay, worker’s compensation when he was diagnosed 16 months after this death detail with a brain tumor, lung cancer, sinusitis, GERD, PTSD, COPD and skin cancer; DHS did not comply with any regulations, policies or safety and health measures; not one report was submitted, denied advanced sick leave, ignored mandatory medical examinations when federal workers are exposed to toxins, hazardous CBNs, carcinogenics, health risks and still waiting for an answer since 2003. My husband died in my arms 16 months later as a disabled retiree instead of a “fallen officer” which he has been denied being added to the National Law Enforcement Fallen Officers Wall Memorial in Washington, DC, since his death was not “directly related to the WTC dust”; however, $4.2 million was compensated by DHS to illegal immigrant family members whose loved ones died from the WTC dust as they were hired by the federal government to the WTC 9/11 clean up, just like my husband.

Now that the statute of limitations have run out, his supervisor sends an email to me reminding of my husband’s 3rd anniversary of his death, to find out that DHS Grant program compensates, awards and transfers those who can keep family members from proceeding further with any lawyers, courts and/or infrastructure risk management.

Hopefully, this will get to the right, caring, honest and dedicated person to get my husband and others what DHS has given to illegal immigrants, conspirators and murders.

God Bless America, Always remember 9/11/2001 and our heroes who have been forgotten,

Philadelphia, PA
DHS Philadelphia Region Office
Widow of a Federal Police Officer
Federal Protective Services WTC 9/11 clean up detailed by GSA
Sick and died without any acknowledgement by DHS as a Federal Police Officer, DHS/ICE

Comment by Beth

November 18, 2008 @ 12:22 am

Is it possible to contact Mr. William R. Cumming as not possible via internet search engines?

Thank you very much it would be greatly appreciated since in the past he has supported, replied and encouraged me to continue my quest for my husband’s legacy.

Comment by William R. Cumming

November 18, 2008 @ 9:19 am

Beth! You are welcome to contact me at vacationlanegrp@aol.com

Website is http://www.vacationlanegrp.com

Regards Bill and again sorry for all that you have been through. EPA was sued on its “All Clear” message to responders and not sure how that came out. Christie Todd Whitman former head of EPA during 9/11 was sued in individual capacity and not sure what happened in that case also. Readers of this blog may be able to provide update to Beth.

Bill Cumming

Comment by Rob

November 26, 2008 @ 5:09 pm

During the considerations for allowing DHS and more specifically TSA employees collective bargining rights I sincerely hope that the new administration and the new head of DHS Govenor N. from Arizona carefully look at the original ATSA legislation and will finnaly grant thousands of hard working employees in TSA the equal rights under Title 5 which are held by most other federal employees. Those of us not under Title 5 protection are literally second class federal employees. It is no wonder DHS/TSA leadership often wonders why a great workforce like TSA most often ranks last among other goverment agencies in job satisfaction. Giving Title 5 protections to these thousands of dedicated professional is only the fair thing to do in the first year of the new adminsitration.

RSS feed for comments on this post. TrackBack URI

Leave a comment

XHTML: You can use these tags: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>