Union cries foul over planned transfer of IT workers at DOD

Feds rally outside a Washington, D.C. courthouse where a union lawsuit is being tried. Photo credit: Chase Gunter 

Feds rally outside a Washington, D.C. courthouse where a union lawsuit is being tried. Photo credit: Chase Gunter

A leading federal employee union has filed an unfair labor practice charge against the Department of Defense over the planned transfer of 217 tech workers from the Defense Contracting Management Agency (DCMA) to the Defense Information Systems Agency.

The move is scheduled to take effect on Oct. 1.

The American Federation of Government Employees filed the charge with the Federal Labor Relations Authority on May 20. It alleged that DOD did not consult with AFGE before going ahead with a plan to reassign the employees. The union noted in its complaint that the move is part of a larger consolidation of DOD's Fourth Estate agencies that my affect "tens of thousands of employees" represented by AFGE.

"The Department of Defense has clearly violated the law by failing to notify AFGE of this proposal and not allowing the union to provide our views and recommendations regarding these proposed changes and the impact they could have on the employees we represent," AFGE National President J. David Cox Sr. said in a statement.

According to AFGE, the move could eventually see 1,200 IT workers transferred from across defense agencies to DISA.

Victor Matos, western region vice president for AFGE Council 170, told FCW that the transfer as planned would leave the 217 employees without a union contract.

"It comes down to loss of representation. Going into October 1, an employee that seeks redress within that first month -- they won't know who they're going to go to," Matos said. "We want them covered going into the agency, not months or years later."

Elissa Smith, a DOD spokeswoman, said in an email that "the Department of Defense respects the rights of its unionized workforce and labor unions. The department looks forward to working with AFGE to find an amicable resolution to their unfair labor practice charge."

The Pentagon has been under pressure from lawmakers and watchdogs to try to streamline and eliminate duplication among defense agencies including DISA and DCMA. A Government Accountability Office report from September 2018 recommended that DOD's chief management officer establish new guidance and direction for identifying and eliminating overlap, duplication and fragmentation among the defense agencies and DOD field activities.

The 2019 National Defense Authorization Act required the CMO to conduct a review of each Fourth Estate agency's efficiency and effectiveness by Jan. 1, 2020, with further reviews to be conducted periodically. An April report for the Pentagon previewed the focus of the initial review and offered a detailed look at plans for change.

"Reforming the business operations of the department is a significant undertaking that requires extensive analysis, planning and collaboration throughout the enterprise. Under the leadership of the Office of the Chief Management Officer, reform teams are leading effort to improve enterprise business operations throughout the department and establish a culture of continuous improvement," DOD spokeswoman Heather Babb told FCW. 

The 2020 defense budget request from the Trump administration calls for a number of DCMA's IT services to be managed on a fee-for-service basis by DISA, and with DCMA calling for a reduction in headcount.

This story was updated May 29 to include comments from the Department of Defense.

About the Author

Adam Mazmanian is executive editor of FCW.

Before joining the editing team, Mazmanian was an FCW staff writer covering Congress, government-wide technology policy and the Department of Veterans Affairs. Prior to joining FCW, Mazmanian was technology correspondent for National Journal and served in a variety of editorial roles at B2B news service SmartBrief. Mazmanian has contributed reviews and articles to the Washington Post, the Washington City Paper, Newsday, New York Press, Architect Magazine and other publications.

Click here for previous articles by Mazmanian. Connect with him on Twitter at @thisismaz.


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