The Fallacy of Federalization

The Washington politicians and bureaucrats are at it again to increase costs and expand the federal establishment. This, of course, at a time when federal spending is excessive and citizens want to reduce government enterprise.

Congressional committees and various agencies are considering federalizing security contractors. In short, replacing contract security officers with Federal Protective Service (FPS) officers or military. Indeed, the U.S. Air Force recently displaced contract security at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station with federal employees.

It is estimated that FPS manages or mismanages, 15,000 contract security and the Department of Energy has 2,000. Thus, any change in the status of contract officers will have a substantial impact on their careers and the future of their families and communities.

We will fight to protect the interests and welfare of our members who may be adversely affected by unwarranted governmental action.

The GAO Report

The Government Accounting Office issued its report: Nuclear Security, DOE Needs to Address Protective Forces’ Personnel System Issues. This expensive study was conducted despite the fact that DOE rejected federalization. As you might expect, the media misinterpreted the report and trumpeted that DOE would federalize. That is not true.

The report was limited to DOE sites with Category I Special Nuclear Material and stated clearly that:
“. . . we found that for several reasons, either contractor or federal forces could result in effective and more uniform security if the forces are well-managed.” (Emphasis added)

For years our Union has argued that both contractor and government site management is inadequate and must be improved.

GAO further recommends that DOE implement a study that called for a personnel system to enhance career longevity and retirement options to increase unarmed positions for SPO’s who can no longer meet combatant requirements, better training, assistance for retirement and job transitions, and other changes that recognize the contribution and dedication of employees. These recommendations have been made for years by the SPFPA.
In its conclusion, GAO noted that:

“However, if DOE decides not to take meaningful actions or if its actions
will not achieve the intended goals, an examination of other options, including the federalization of protective forces, may be merited.”

The International Union, with the support of its affected Locals and members, will take action to cause DOE to take meaningful actions to avoid the displacement of SPO’s.

Congressional Action

There is an old saying: When in danger, when in doubt, run in circles, scream and shout. Congress follows this pattern by creating additional committees and commissioning studies. Thus it is with the issue of federalization and the fiction that it might provide better security than the in place contract security system.

Democratic members of Congress, Bennie Thompson (MS) and Sheila Jackson-Lee (TX) have introduced an FPS reform bill entitled “Federal Protective Service Improvement and Accountability Act of 2010” which (you guessed it) requires another GAO study and report. This bill, if passed, provides for “a 1-year pilot program (at four level III and four level IV facilities) to research the advantages of converting guard positions at the highest risk Federal facilities protected by the Federal Protective Service from contract guard positions to positions held by Federal employees.” If the GAO report concludes that federal guards performed with a “satisfactory” grade, FPS is directed to federalize all Level III and IV facilities. While the bill favors federalization, it also calls for contractor oversight by FPS and minimum training and certification for security contractors.

Not to be out done, GOP congressmen have introduced a bill that calls for a three year pilot program at three Level IV facilities to test and evaluate the relative merit of federal and contract security. FPS would have the authority to determine federalization and its scope.

The story does not end. In the other chamber, Senator Joseph Lieberman (CT) introduced a bipartisan bill to strengthen security at 9,000 federal buildings across the country. The bill focuses on the FPS which GAO and DHS Inspector General have found to be a seriously dysfunctional agency.

The Senate bill appears to raise the fundamental truth that security will only be as effective if planned, directed and implemented by competent leadership. Again, this is a matter raised by our Union for years at all levels and types of security, including in-house and contract security. Too frequently the security officers receive vicarious blame.

Federalization Not the Solution

For many years our members employed by security contractors have provided effective and dedicated security service at federal, state and other public sites and facilities. We have bargaining units at federal buildings, military forts and bases,NASA locations, courts, universities and many others.

Personnel problems, if any, can be addressed through the collective bargaining agreement. But this does not apply to mismanagement which the contracting government agency may permit or fail to correct or even be responsible for.
Federalization is not the answer because there is no prospect that the FPS or other federal contractor will improve oversight. If they do, such improvement will improve, if necessary, and enhance contract security.

Those in Congress who may favor federalization of contract security appear to be uninformed as to the consequences of such action.

To begin with, at a time of huge federal deficits, federalization would be costly regarding transition costs, recruitment, processing, training, security clearances and other matters.

Federalization will not improve the Tactical Response Force initiative of DOE or other agencies. Unless there is effective management of such a force, the ability of forces to work until retirement is threatened whether federal or contract security.

Experience has demonstrated that contract security officers suffer job loss during federalization notwithstanding their years of service, dedication and ability to perform. There

is no guarantee of a job. Federal civil service jobs are competitive and there is veterans’ preference.
Transitional employee would be classified as a “security guard” and would not be eligible for early or enhanced pension benefits. No credit would be given for service as a contract security officer.

It is likely that federalized officers would suffer a reduction in pay because the GS pay scale is less than contract rates as established by the Service Contract Act and collective bargaining. Because GS has a step wage scale, it could take up to 18 years to reach top grade.

Federal employees do not enjoy the rights and benefits of the National Labor Relations Act.

Thus, federalization holds the prospect of job loss or reduced wages and benefits for individual contract security officers. The problem, as found by GAO, is not the officers. It is the failure of FPS and government agencies to exercise appropriate oversight of security contractors or to develop meaningful programs. For example, on many occasions the government has initiated training and physical fitness programs which are not job related or age and gender validated.

Call to Action

Federalization is a threat to the welfare of many of our members who have given years of dedicated and effective service to our country through service contracts. They must not be discarded because of political whim. I pledge that the International Union will take action as necessary and appropriate to prevent harm to our members from federalization. We must all play an active role in this endeavor. I will call upon Local Unions and individuals to assist with legislative contacts and to document site specific evidence to support our cause. International Officers and staff have been directed to monitor all service contracts and to collect evidence when the FPS or other agency has failed to provide leadership. I will continue to meet with our General Counsel to plan and execute legal strategies. We must work together and maintain solidarity, and we will overcome the challenge of federalizing contract security officers. ***