A letter to POTUS and Congress from five former DHS secretaries (Tom Ridge, Michael Chertoff, Janet Napolitano, Jeh Johnson and John Kelly
While we are heartened to learn that communities, businesses and religious organizations around the country are providing assistance to DHS employees, this cannot and should not be the answer. One of the unfortunate consequences of this shutdown is the need for some DHS employees to seek either unemployment or find another employer. It is important to note that as unattractive as these alternatives may be, like other members of the military services, members of the USCG by law, cannot quit nor can they seek full-time outside employment. DHS employees who protect the traveling public, investigate and counter terrorism, and protect critical infrastructure should not have to rely on the charitable generosity of others for assistance in feeding their families and paying their bills while they steadfastly focus on the mission at hand. This is unconscionable.
As the shutdown drags on, the Department also risks talented people leaving their posts to pursue employment in the private sector. High-tech skills – such as information technology and cybersecurity –and law enforcement and security experience are in great demand in the private sector and the Department is facing a real crisis in retaining this workforce week after week.A statement from the National Air Traffic Controllers Association (NATCA) President Paul Rinaldi, Air Line Pilots Association (ALPA) President Joe DePete, and Association of Flight Attendants-CWA (AFA) President Sara Nelson:
We are awed by the sacrifices that the men and women of DHS and their families make every day and their extraordinary service to our nation. We call on our elected leaders to restore the funding necessary to ensure our homeland remains safe and that the Department’s critical national security functions continue without compromise.
“We have a growing concern for the safety and security of our members, our airlines, and the traveling public due to the government shutdown. This is already the longest government shutdown in the history of the United States and there is no end in sight. In our risk averse industry, we cannot even calculate the level of risk currently at play, nor predict the point at which the entire system will break. It is unprecedented.
“Due to the shutdown, air traffic controllers, transportation security officers, safety inspectors, air marshals, federal law enforcement officers, FBI agents, and many other critical workers have been working without pay for over a month. Staffing in our air traffic control facilities is already at a 30-year low and controllers are only able to maintain the system’s efficiency and capacity by working overtime, including 10-hour days and 6-day workweeks at many of our nation’s busiest facilities. Due to the shutdown, the FAA has frozen hiring and shuttered its training academy, so there is no plan in effect to fill the FAA’s critical staffing need. Even if the FAA were hiring, it takes two to four years to become fully facility certified and achieve Certified Professional Controller (CPC) status. Almost 20% of CPCs are eligible to retire today. There are no options to keep these professionals at work without a paycheck when they can no longer afford to support their families. When they elect to retire, the National Airspace System (NAS) will be crippled.
“The situation is changing at a rapid pace. Major airports are already seeing security checkpoint closures, with many more potentially to follow. Safety inspectors and federal cyber security staff are not back on the job at pre-shutdown levels, and those not on furlough are working without pay. Last Saturday, TSA management announced that a growing number of officers cannot come to work due to the financial toll of the shutdown. In addition, we are not confident that system-wide analyses of safety reporting data, which is used to identify and implement corrective actions in order to reduce risks and prevent accidents is 100 percent operational due to reduced FAA resources.