Monday, November 25, 2002

Homeland Security
As part of an agency that is merging into the new Homeland Security Department, I've been interested in how the new department will be organized and funded. Much has been made of the degree of employee protection that should be offered. As this bit from the LA Times puts it:

T. J. Bonner, president of the National Border Patrol Council, the union representing the roughly 10,000 federal employees who guard the nation's borders, predicted that agents would soon leave the agency in droves.

"Nobody wants to work in an environment where you can be fired at will," he said, adding that labor difficulties could reduce security at the nation's borders.

I've got news for Mr. Bonner. Pretty much everyone who is an employee in the private sector lives in an environment where you can be fired at will. Why should federal employees be isolated from the consequences of their actions?

At TSA everyone is brand new and we are all on at least a one year probationary period. If you fail to perform your job you will be fired. The screener at Miami International who fell asleep on the job was canned. I'd say that improved security in Miami. If we've got some problem children at the borders I'm all for giving them walking papers as well.

If Mr. Bonner is concerned that people will be fired for no reason then hey- they've got his union to back them. And Tom Ridge, the head honcho of Homeland Security, has promised to work with the unions. From the same LA Times article:

One of his biggest challenges, he said in an interview Monday, is to "relieve the anxiety of the many good men and women" who will work for the new department. "We can't be successful without them."

Ridge said he had already begun reaching out to the federal employees' unions. He invited leaders of the two largest unions to the bill-signing ceremony, and they agreed to meet again in a couple of weeks to discuss how to win over a huge, now somewhat disempowered, segment of the federal work force.

"At the end of the day, homeland security and job security are compatible," Ridge said.

At the end of the day I have little sympathy for Mr. Bonner's argument. His unionized employees enjoy job protections the rest of the workforce lack. They get pensions (a rare thing for many) and good benefits. This side (read the Democrats) lost the political debate on this topic. If he is still whining about this in March when the Department absorbs INS I'll be very annoyed.

Oh, and keep in mind that INS has proven so ineffective that it is being split up as part of this process. Do we owe jobs to the people that approved Mohammed Atta's visa weeks after 9/11?