October 15, 2002
The Honorable Thomas Daschle, Senate Majority Leader, United States Senate, Washington, D.C. 20510
The Honorable Trent Lott, Senate Republican Leader, United States Senate, Washington, D.C. 20510
Dear Senator Daschle and Senator Lott,
Our nation faces a critical challenge. The enemies of freedom have waged war against us by stealth and deceit. The threat of another terrorist attack is with us every day, but in the face of this adversity, the American people have united behind the president to fight terrorism and secure our homeland. To manage this effort, the president has proposed a Department of Homeland Security.
At this challenging time, we believe that the president's existing, government-wide authority to exclude unions from certain agencies in the interests of our national security should be preserved for this new department.
In proposals under consideration in the Senate, the president could not exercise his long-standing authority unless he can first satisfy two new, burdensome standards that do not apply to any other department. We do not believe that it is logical, especially in this time of war, for the president to have this critical national security authority for each of the 14 existing Cabinet departments, but to have that authority effectively stripped from him when it comes to the department created for the very purpose of protecting the homeland.
Many employees in our respective departments will be moving to the new department. However, if these agencies were left in their existing departments and not moved to the proposed Department of Homeland Security, the president would continue to exercise his complete national security authority.
Conversely, if the agencies are moved, with the same employees and same mission to the Department of Homeland Security, the president would have less national security authority over the employees.
As Cabinet secretaries, we rely daily on both union and non-union federal personnel. Together, we manage over 1.6 million employees, and over a million of them belong to unions. We have seen firsthand the hard work and long hours these people dedicate to the missions of the departments in our charge. Federal employees have been, and will continue to be, the backbone of our nation's homeland security efforts.
Today, the president can exclude unions in each of the departments we lead if he finds that doing so is necessary for reasons of national security. This long-standing authority reflects a careful balance struck by President Kennedy in 1962, when he permitted federal workers to unionize but reserved the power to remove or limit this right for reasons of national security.
President Carter and the Congress formalized this authority into law in the 1978 Civil Service Reform Act. Every president since then has used it. Our departments' histories provide clear evidence that every president has exercised this power with discretion and responsibly.
We respectfully ask you to support legislation that would establish a Department of Homeland Security and maintain for that new department the president's existing authority to act in the interests of our national security.
Colin Powell, Secretary, Department of State
Donald Rumsfeld, Secretary, Department of Defense
Gale Norton, Secretary, Department of the Interior
Donald Evans, Secretary, Department of Commerce
Tommy Thompson, Secretary, Department of Health and Human Services
Norman Mineta, Secretary, Department of Transportation
Roderick Paige, Secretary, Department of Education
Paul O'Neill, Secretary, Department of the Treasury
John Ashcroft, Attorney General, Department of Justice
Ann Veneman, Secretary, Department of Agriculture
Elaine L. Chao, Secretary, Department of Labor
Mel Martinez, Secretary, Department of Housing and Urban Development
Spencer Abraham, Secretary, Department of Energy
Anthony Principi, Secretary, Department of Veterans Affairs