Note: The Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Subcommittee on Efficiency and Effectiveness of Federal Programs and the Federal Workforce are holding a hearing today at 2:00 p.m. EST in the Dirksen Senate Office Building, Room 342

(Washington, D.C.) – Today, the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Subcommittee on Efficiency and Effectiveness of Federal Programs and the Federal Workforce will hold a hearing examining the national security workforce. Angela Canterbury of the Project on Government Oversight and Make It Safe Coalition will testify to make the coalition point that we need action in light of a recent court decision that has effectively cancelled civil service due process rights and whistleblower protections for anyone in a ‘national security sensitive’ position.

In August, a court decision granted federal agencies sweeping powers to classify at least half a million positions as national security sensitive (Kaplan v. Conyers, Northover and MSP). The same ruling stripped federal employees in these positions of their right to appeal an adverse personnel action, setting the stage to also deny due process rights for actions that are discriminatory or in retaliation for whistleblowing. The decision in Conyers erases civil service due process rights and whistleblower protections for a wide range of employees in positions ranging from a clerk at an agency grocery store to an accounting secretary, as the dissent in the case pointed out.

“There is a simple legislative fix that would reverse the harmful effects of the activist court decision and reaffirm the long-standing congressional mandate for due process rights for civil servants who do not have access to classified information,” said Angela Canterbury, Director of Public Policy for the Project on Government Oversight. “The legislation clarifies that an employee appealing an action arising from an eligibility determination for a position that does not require a security clearance or access to classified information may not be denied Merit Systems Protection Board review of the merits of the underlying eligibility determination,” she said.

According to Tom Devine, Legal Director for the Government Accountability Project, which represents whistleblowers, “As currently approved the new sensitive jobs category is a back door way to eliminate the civil service rule of law that has kept the federal workforce non-partisan and professional since 1883. It sets the stage for a national security spoils system. When Presidents Nixon and Bush tried to create spoils systems through the back door, Congress just said no. Congress needs to just say no again. The Justice Department already is exploiting this loophole in attempts to cancel the rights of employees under last year’s unanimously approved Whistleblower Protection Enhancement Act.”

“If an agency fires an employee from any position it designates as ‘sensitive,’ for example, for making a legally protected whistleblower disclosure, the employee likely will have no recourse,” said Keith Wrightson Worker Safety and Health Advocate for Public Citizen’s Congress Watch. “Whistleblower protections are a cornerstone of government accountability, and without these protections, civil service employees will be deterred from coming forward to report waste, fraud or abuse,” he stated.

“Many federal scientists could be harmed by the Conyers decision,” said Celia Wexler, Center for Science and Democracy at the Union of Concerned Scientists.

Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC) has already introduced a bill, H.R. 3278, to do just that. The bill has seven cosponsors and has been referred to the House Oversight and Government Reform committee.

The Make It Safe Coalition urges Congress to ensure that federal civil employees can have safe and efficient workplaces while remaining accountable to taxpayers.

Contact: Tom Devine, Government Accountability Project Legal Director
Phone: 202.457.0034, ext. 124
Email: [email protected]

Contact: Angela Canterbury, Project on Government Oversight
Phone: 202.347.1122

Contact: Celia Wexler, Union of Concerned Scientists
Phone: 202.390.5481

Contact: Keith Wrightson, Public Citizen
Phone: 202.454.5139

Government Accountability Project
The Government Accountability Project is the nation’s leading whistleblower protection organization. Through litigating whistleblower cases, publicizing concerns and developing legal reforms, GAP’s mission is to protect the public interest by promoting government and corporate accountability. Founded in 1977, GAP is a nonprofit, nonpartisan advocacy organization based in Washington, D.C.