Bush defends workforce flexibilities

White House speech transcript

President Bush defended his plan to give the proposed Homeland Security Department additional workforce flexibilities that, among other things, would allow officials to hire qualified people faster.

Speaking at Mount Rushmore Aug. 15, Bush said a provision in the Senate version of the homeland security bill makes it too hard to hire good people quickly.

"There's too many bureaucratic rules," Bush said. He and department officials "need the capacity to be able to pay people according to their contributions and hold people to account for their performance, both good and bad. If somebody does a good job, we want to be able to provide bonuses."

Bush added that he is confident that even with new flexibilities, workers' rights would be protected. They would have whistle-blower protection and the right to join a union, he said. "But I need flexibility to be able to run this department."

The American Federation of Government Employees opposes the proposed flexibilities, calling it "doublespeak" and saying the changes would take away the merit system on which civil service is based.

In his speech, Bush also asked for the ability to:

* Ship resources without a time-consuming approval process.

* Reorganize the Customs Service, Immigration and Naturalization Service and Border Patrol.

"I need the authority to have Customs and the INS and the Border Patrol work in concert so that there are no gaps in the defense of our borders," Bush said. "I don't have that authority under the Senate bill."

The Senate is expected to take up the homeland bill after Labor Day. The House approved its legislation July 26.

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