Workforce

Esper says he didn't seek the authority to gut DOD unions

The Pentagon (Photo by Ivan Cholakov / Shutterstock) 

Testifying at a congressional hearing, Defense Secretary Mark Esper gave no indication about whether an administration policy authorizing the restriction of collective bargaining by civilian defense employees will be put into practice.

The Jan. 29 memo, which could affect 750,000 DOD civilian employees if implemented, delegated to Esper the authority to exclude unions from defense agencies for reasons of national security.

Esper, testified before the House Armed Services Committee Feb. 26 that he didn't seek the authority from President Donald Trump and he didn't know why the memo delegating the authority to eliminate collective bargaining was drafted.

The memo, Esper said, "has not come to me with any recommendations or analysis" and said under questioning that such an analysis and recommendations was being prepared by his staff.

Rep. Donald Norcross, (D-N.J.), who chairs the House Armed Services Subcommittee on Tactical Air and Land Forces, probed Esper on whether he was planning on implementing the president’s guidance.

"The idea of creating potential havoc when we work well together seems rather crazy," Norcross said.

The 1978 Civil Service Reform Act permits the elimination of collective bargaining on national security grounds.

That authority "was provided by Congress for genuine emergencies," Everett B. Kelly, national secretary-treasurer of the American Federation of Government Employees said in a Feb. 14 letter to HASC Chairman Rep. Adam Smith (D-Wash.). "No rationale related to any emergency has been offered by the administration has having motivated the issuance of this Presidential Memorandum," saying that the national security language in the new policy "strikes us as a mere pretext."

About the Author

Lauren C. Williams is senior editor for FCW and Defense Systems, covering defense and cybersecurity.

Prior to joining FCW, Williams was the tech reporter for ThinkProgress, where she covered everything from internet culture to national security issues. In past positions, Williams covered health care, politics and crime for various publications, including The Seattle Times.

Williams graduated with a master's in journalism from the University of Maryland, College Park and a bachelor's in dietetics from the University of Delaware. She can be contacted at [email protected], or follow her on Twitter @lalaurenista.

Click here for previous articles by Wiliams.


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