this column has noted repeatedly, much of the Federal bureaucracy
continues to march to the beat of its own bloated drum. Wait, make
that a union drum. The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) recently
lost a struggle to overhaul its bureaucratic personnel system, courtesy
of a union lawsuit. DHS announced this past Friday that it will not
implement new labor rules it proposed six years ago, and, in the wake
of this announcement, the United States Court of Appeals for the
District of Columbia Circuit closed a lawsuit against DHS.
decision ended a lengthy showdown that began in the summer of 2002.
President George W. Bush’s administration wanted to form a new employee
system for DHS to allow for more managerial discretion in personnel
issues. The administration originally used the terrorist attacks of
September 11, 2001, as an example of why more involvement and oversight
by union representatives would be detrimental to national security. In
the event of an emergency there may not be sufficient time to allow DHS
personnel to notify union representatives of the deployment of union
members to new areas. Instead, the Bush administration proposed the
creation of a separate DHS personnel system, which would change
everything from employee pay and promotion to disciplinary
In 2005, DHS and the Office of Personnel Management introduced specific rules for the new personnel system. According to The Washington Post,
the proposed rules would have allowed DHS to override any provision in
a union contract by issuing a Department-wide directive. They also
would have made it difficult for unions to negotiate arrangements for
staffing, deployments and technology. The National Treasury Employees
Union (NTEU) promptly sued and successfully blocked implementation of
the rules when the United States Court of Appeals for the District of
Columbia Circuit ruled in June 2006 that the proposed system violated
DHS employees’ legal rights to collective bargaining. NTEU also
lobbied Congress, which provided no funding for the new system in its
Fiscal Year 2008 Omnibus Appropriations Bill.
the wake of the announcement that DHS would not overhaul its system,
the president of the union announced that she would continue to oppose
any change to the personnel system within DHS. And we wonder why the federal government is incapable of either protecting Americans or
making appropriate changes to its staid bureaucracy? With friends like
these, who needs enemies to do us harm?
than any other federal bureaucracy, DHS should have the flexibility to
anticipate and respond rapidly to crises. To do so, it should be
allowed to promote and deploy those best suited for a situation based
upon meritorious performance, skill and knowledge, not pre-arranged
selfishness and lack of foresight displayed in this case is indicative
of larger problems conservatives and libertarians face in their pursuit
of a smaller, more disciplined and more responsive federal government.
It is not only politicians and bureaucrats who upon occasion serve as
roadblocks to progress; it is some unions and numerous other
special-interest groups which place the welfare of the group above that
of the larger society. The two drums, it seems, are out of synch and
probably impossible to coordinate, leading to a rather haphazard,
hesitant and insecure march.