Executive Intelligence Review
This documentation appears in the May 16, 2003 issue of Executive Intelligence Review.

Testimony on Rumsfeld's
Emergency Legislation'

Rep. Henry Waxman (D-Calif.) to the May 6 Government Reform Committee hearing:

Mr. Chairman, I'd like to thank you for holding this hearing. The Bush Administration's proposal to rewrite the rules for civilian employees at the Department of Defense is breathtaking in its scope and implications.... We're working at a break-neck pace on a bill that will directly affect almost 700,000 civilian employees at the Defense Department.

Why, you might ask, are we doing this? No one seems to know. At a subcommittee hearing last week, I asked Undersecretary of Defense David Chu how the current personnel system had hindered DoD's war efforts in Iraq. He wasn't able to give me any examples. When Dr. Chu was asked whether Secretary Rumsfeld would consider delaying consideration of the bill, Dr. Chu pointed to "the three weeks it took our troops to get from the Kuwait border to Baghdad." Dr. Chu added that the Secretary "is not someone who is patient with a long, indecisive process."

In other words, now that the Defense Department has marched through Iraq in three weeks, it intends to do the same with Congress.

I might understand this better if we at least knew what DoD was going to do with the enormous flexibilities that it's seeking. But we have virtually no idea. Basically, the DoD proposal is nothing more than a blank check. DoD is asking to be exempted from 100 years of civil service laws enacted specifically to prevent a patronage system. Yet the Department isn't telling us how it's going to replace these laws. That's not the right way to deal with one of the most sweeping civil service reforms in history.... I urge my colleagues to slow down this runaway legislative train.

House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) to the May 6 Government Reform Committee hearing:

Thank you Mr. Chairman, and members of the committee, for the opportunity to present to you my views on the Civil Service and National Security Personnel Improvement Act.

I am dismayed by the manner in which a civil service reform of this magnitude is being rushed through the legislative process. It is shameful that we will give no more than cursory consideration to legislation that will strip from more than a third of our Federal civilian employees, their most basic worker protections.

The last piece of legislation to affect this many Federal employees was the 1978 Civil Service Reform Act; and the process by which it was developed and considered could not be more different than what we see today. Months prior to submitting his proposal to the Congress, President Carter established a working group to study personnel policies. The group heard from more than 7,000 individuals, held 17 public hearings and scores of meetings, and issued a three-volume report. Upon subsequent introduction of the legislation, House and Senate Committees held 25 days of hearings....

This thorough, open, and fair process resulted in civil service reform legislation that garnered near-unanimous bipartisan support in both chambers.

The contrast to the current process could not be more clear. This measure was conceived by a handful of the President's closest advisors without any public input; regrettably, not a single Federal employee group was consulted. Since introduction of the legislation last week, the House has scheduled a couple of hearings; a handful of witnesses will provide testimony; and it will likely be attached to the Defense Authorization bill and approved by the full House prior to the Memorial Day recess. But why the urgency to enact such sweeping reforms?...

But this bill is even more objectionable for what it does than for how it came to be. This proposal will have the chilling effect of undoing decades of some of the most important worker protections enacted by Congress. Among its most egregious provisions, the legislation grants the Secretary of Defense the authority to strip Federal workers of their collective bargaining rights, deny employees their right to appeal unfair treatment, grant supervisors complete discretion in setting salaries and determining raises, and abolish rules requiring that reductions-in-force be based on seniority and job performance.

Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz to the May 6 Government Reform Committee hearing:

As we have seen so vividly in recent days, lives depend, not just on technology, but on a culture that fosters leadership, flexibility, agility and adaptability. To foster these qualities and bring DoD into the 21st Century, we need legislative help. One of the key areas in which we need your help, is in transforming our system of personnel management so that we can gain more flexibility and agility in how we handle the more than 700,000 civilians who provide the Department vital support, or to deal efficiently with those who don't. The ability to do so is nothing less than a national security requirement, because it goes straight to how well we will be able to defend our country in the years to come....

In an age when terrorists move information at the speed of an e-mail, money at the speed of a wire transfer, and people at the speed of a commercial jetliner, the Defense Department is still bogged down, to a great extent, in the micro-management and bureaucratic processes of the industrial age, when the world has surged ahead into the information age.

Subscribe to EIW