Dec 16, 2007

Guards at Y-12 might become federalized

By Frank Munger,

OAK RIDGE - The National Nuclear Security Administration is studying the possibility of federalizing guards at nuclear weapons facilities, including Y-12 in Oak Ridge.

The option has been discussed for many years but never carried out.

In a Nov. 14 memo to guards' unions and other stakeholders, William J. Desmond, chief of defense nuclear security for the NNSA, acknowledged the study and invited comment.

The NNSA, which is a part of the Department of Energy, plans to complete the study by Feb. 1, Desmond said.

He said his office wants to compare the use of contractors versus federal guards "to determine whether federalization of security forces would be a more effective and efficient model to provide tactical-response forces in today's threat environment," Desmond wrote.

Randy Lawson, president of the International Guards Union of America, who also heads IGUA local in Oak Ridge, said he supports the federalization effort.

Lawson said guards at various DOE sites have been working collectively toward that goal.

The National Council of Security Police hired a lobbyist to assist their efforts, he said.

The motivation for guards is to improve retirement benefits, Lawson said. "We've been working through DOE for 20 years by collective bargaining, and it's not been successful," the union chief said.

Physical-fitness requirements have shortened careers and made it more difficult for security police to meet traditional point quotas needed for full retirement benefits, Lawson said.

Courtney Henry, a spokeswoman at Wackenhut Services, the government's Oak Ridge security contractor, said the company had no comment on Desmond's letter or the study.

"Basically, from the Wackenhut side, we're just continuing to work every day to protect Oak Ridge," Henry said. Besides Oak Ridge, Wackenhut is involved in security at the Nevada Test Site and the Savannah River site in South Carolina.

Desmond said the study would look at a number of economic and noneconomic issues. He also said it would assess the impact of strikes in general, as well as the recent 44-day strike by security police at the Pantex warhead-assembly plant in Texas. One of the NNSA incentives for federalizing guards would be to eliminate strikes at the national-security sites.

"That's our sacred cow," Lawson said. "But if they gave a fair retirement. … "

The Project On Government Oversight, a watchdog group often critical of security at NNSA sites, supports the federalization of security guards.

Senior writer Frank Munger may be reached at 342-6329.


Anonymous said...

How about federalizing the technical staff at LANL? At least that would give us the rights that are allowed all federal workers and assure us of a more secure future at the lab. As it is, we work for a mish-mash LLC that gives us very few worker rights and absolutely no chance of collective bargaining to secure our benefits and salaries.

Anonymous said...

Would Federalizing the guards be an improvement, or detriment?

Anonymous said...

More than 30 years ago, the LANL guards were DOE employees. That was changed and they became employees of a private company. There have been good things and not-good things about this.

Before jumping into federalization, it would be important to understand the trade-offs.

Federalizing the technical staff at LANL would probably not be a good thing in terms of hiring the best and brightest and getting work done. However, these days, those things are not important. Until LANS came on, we did really try to run a "performance-based" compensation system. Yes, many will complain that there was favoritism, etc., but clearly not to the extent that we have it under LANS.

Anonymous said...

My husband is looking forward to this. Having waited over a year to get his job at Wackenhut and having served 4 years previous to that in the USMC, he would love to have the possibility of retiring young if he so chooses. He was recalled and Wackenhut couldn't be a better employer as they hold his job for his return. Now he does not foresee himself retiring at the young age of 45, but we don't have a problem with federalizing the job so that those who feel it's best for them can do so. We realize it will mean a possible drop in pay and a definite change in health care coverage, but it is something we can deal with. I do hope it will not get rid of the incredible overtime pay though. It is something we rely on during the holidays. Any ideas as to what all will be changed if this goes into effect?