Posted: Thursday, December 22, 2005
SILVER SPRING, MD – Just after midnight the United States Senate approved S. 1281, The National Aeronautics and Space Administration Authorization Act of 2005. The Senate's action, by unanimous consent early this morning, follows the House's December 17 th unanimous voice vote approval.
Among the major victories included in this bill is a requirement for NASA management to fully vet any planned workforce reshaping through both its unions and Congress prior to implementation. Commenting on Congress' proactive approach to NASA workforce issues, Gregory J. Junemann, President of NASA's largest union, the International Federation of Professional and Technical Engineers (IFPTE) released the following statement:
"In what has turned out to be a frenzied finish to this very contentious legislative year, we at IFPTE are pleased that the Senate was able to approve this bill before adjourning. Based on the bipartisan fashion in which both the House and Senate approached this issue and ultimately produced a hugely beneficial product for both NASA and the American taxpayer, I can only hope this will set the tone for a more cohesive congressional session next year.
"I also hope some of the critical issues addressed in the NASA Authorization will set a constructive precedent as well. To their credit, lawmakers have required that NASA management work with both its unions and Congress when formulating its workforce reshaping plans and have also reinforced whistleblower protections for NASA's rank and file employees. Not only does this make good common sense, it will also protect against the kind of hasty, unilateral executive decision making we have seen associated with a blind impulse to downsize our nation's civilservant workforce. As a union that represents federal workers at NASA as well as other important agencies throughout the government, IFPTE is hopeful that Congress will view NASA's new workforce language as a stepping stone towards putting in place similar protections throughout the federal government.
"We have recently seen the thoughtful and apolitical wisdom of career experts at FEMA, FDA, Justice and elsewhere undermined by political appointees in upper management, resulting in catastrophic consequences to the nation. When the independence and technical expertise of the government's career civil servants are corrupted by short-term political interests and/or management incompetence, the results are clear. As in the case of NASA, Congress must use its oversight role to preserve, protect, and defend these public servants who work exclusively for the people, untainted by political or corporate interests, who must remain free from intimidation by management. IFPTE believes the NASA bill goes a long way toward that goal and is hopeful this is just a stepping stone for the rest of the government to follow. "
S. 1281 was one of the last bills approved at the conclusion of the first session of the 109 th Congress. President Bush is expected to sign the bill into law.
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