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 Home > News & Policies > October 2002

For Immediate Release
Office of the Press Secretary
October 15, 2002

President's Cabinet Sends Letter to Senate on Homeland Security
Text of a Letter from the President's Cabinet to Senate Leaders

October 15, 2002

The Honorable Thomas Daschle
Senate Majority Leader
United States Senate
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
Paul O'Neill
Secretary, Department of the Treasury
Donald Rumsfeld
Secretary, Department of Defense
John Ashcroft
Attorney General, Department of Justice
Gale Norton
Secretary, Department of the Interior
Ann Veneman
Secretary, Department of Agriculture
Donald Evans
Secretary, Department of Commerce
Elaine L. Chao
Secretary, Department of Labor
Tommy Thompson
Secretary, Department of Health and Human Services
Mel Martinez
Secretary, Department of Housing and Urban Development
Norman Mineta
Secretary, Department of Transportation
Spencer Abraham
Secretary, Department of Energy
Roderick Paige
Secretary, Department of Education
Anthony Principi
Secretary, Department of Veterans Affairs