March 14, 2007

Democrats Hijack Homeland Security For Unions

Democrats promised in the midterm elections to immediately implement the remaining recommendations of the 9/11 Commission, which they claimed the Republicans ignored. Yesterday, the Senate passed the bill Democrats introduced to meet that obligation, even though it missed one key provision and added unionization for Homeland Security workers, which the Commission never included in its recommendations:

The Senate overwhelmingly approved legislation yesterday to implement many of the remaining reforms suggested by the Sept. 11 commission, answering its three-year-old call for better emergency communications; more money for cities at high risk of terrorist attacks; and tighter security for air cargo, ports, chemical plants and rail systems.

In a sign of how far the politics of homeland security have shifted since the Democrats seized Congress, senators voted 60 to 38 -- with 10 Republicans and no Democrats crossing ranks -- to force a fresh national security confrontation with President Bush, who has threatened to veto the bill over a provision to expand the labor rights of 45,000 airport screeners. ...

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) criticized the legislation, saying it would weaken U.S. security overall by "pumping for big labor." By allowing the workers to unionize, Democrats "would make the Department of Homeland Security more like the Department of Motor Vehicles," he said.

The administration focused on the labor provision, noting that it was not recommended by the Sept. 11 panel. White House spokesman Scott Stanzel said that it would endanger American travelers by eliminating the Transportation Security Administration's authority to deploy workers to meet changing threats. The White House has lined up enough Republicans to uphold a Bush veto.

The Democrats used the bill as a Trojan horse to gain union access to the thousands of Homeland Security workers, a sop to their biggest contributors. The White House has argued that unionizing DHS would create a costlier and less effective force at a time when the department has enough difficulties in meeting the threat. Regardless of whether one believes unions will create problems and greater inefficiencies in securing the nation, the fact remains that it does nothing to improve security, nor has anything to do with the 9/11 Commission's slate of recommendations.

That isn't the only problem with this bill. Although the Washington Post article fails to mention it, Congress skipped over one recommendation that the Commission felt was critical to its overall plan. On page 30 of its Executive Summary, the Commission demanded reform of government oversight for intelligence:

Congress took too little action to adjust itself or to restructure the executive branch to address the emerging terrorist threat. Congressional oversight for intelligence—and counterterrorism—is dysfunctional. Both Congress and the executive need to do more to minimize national security risks during transitions between administrations.

• For intelligence oversight,we propose two options: either a joint committee on the old model of the Joint Committee on Atomic Energy or a single committee in each house combining authorizing and appropriating committees. Our central message is the same: the intelligence committees cannot carry out their oversight function unless they are made stronger, and thereby have both clear responsibility and accountability for that oversight.

• Congress should create a single, principal point of oversight and review for homeland security.There should be one permanent standing committee for homeland security in each chamber.

• We propose reforms to speed up the nomination, financial reporting, security clearance, and confirmation process for national security officials at the start of an administration, and suggest steps to make sure that incoming administrations have the information they need.

The bill contains nothing that fulfills these goals. Once again, Congress has pushed through changes everywhere but in its own playpen. They have ignored an entire category of recommendations from the panel while celebrating their allegiance to it.

UPDATE: For those who need an explanation of how allowing unionization and civil-service status for DHS personnel will do nothing to make Homeland Security more efficient, Fred Dalton Thompson has one at NRO today:

Whether it’s the Katrina response, the problems at Walter Reed Medical Center, bungled border security, or the IRS and FBI which can’t get their computer systems working, it seems like we’ve lost our ability to take care of some of the most basic duties of government.

Not that this problem is new. For decades, the U.S. Government Accountability Office has told us, time and time again, that we’ve lost control of the waste and fraud and mismanagement in many of our most important agencies. And it’s getting worse.

A big part of the problem is our outmoded civil-service system that makes it too hard to hire good employees and too hard to fire bad ones. The bureaucracy has become gargantuan, making accountability and reform very difficult.

Faced with this managerial swampland, the number of talented executives willing to come to Washington continues to dwindle. Those who do accept the challenges usually want to tackle big national goals in the few years they spend in public service instead of fighting their own agencies. So the bureaucracy just keeps rolling along.

Rather than fix this problem, Congress just added to it.


TrackBack URL for this entry:

Listed below are links to weblogs that reference Democrats Hijack Homeland Security For Unions:

» Did the 9-11 Commission recommend union access to Homeland Security workers? from Sister Toldjah
No, I didn’t think they did, either. The media has reported breathlessly the last couple of days about how the Senate passed a bill that would implement “many of the remaining reforms suggested by the Sept. 11 commission, answering its thre... [Read More]