Dear AFGE Leaders,

Background - -

As most of you know, it has been DoD's announced plan to implement major parts of its "National Security Personnel System" (NSPS) by October 1 of this year. On November 24, 2003, Congress gave the Department of Defense the authority to revise major portions of its personnel, pay, and labor relations systems "in the name of" or really under the guise of national security.

On February 6, 2004, DoD presented a concepts paper that was blatantly anti-union. The week of February 9th, AFGE sent over 700 activists to Capital Hill to have their voices and objections to DoD's actions heard loud and clear by every Representative and Senator. This was, of course, just the beginning of one of the most massive, mobilization, lobbying, PR, informational picketing, and coalition building efforts engaged in by AFGE, the AFL-CIO, and 20 of our sister DoD unions. These massive efforts, that have continued daily since February 8, have now ultimately "persuaded" DoD to pause and rethink its original direction.

New Developments - -

DoD has announced that Secretary of the Navy, Gordon England, will now head DoD's efforts to develop NSPS. On March 31, 2004, Secretary England and Dr. David Chu met with me to advise me that DoD would be starting over the process of developing NSPS, including a new labor relations system. To this end, DoD has just put a letter to all DoD employees on its NSPS website. The letter (copy attached) basically confirms my discussions with Secretary England without emphasizing the commitment the Secretary made to union involvement at all stages of the process.

While we are obviously pleased that DoD will not continue with its previously destructive, anti-union process of developing "reform," we must all remain vigilant! We simply do not know what the new proposed process will look like. Even more importantly, while we are hopeful, there are no guarantees that the process will be sincere and credible, and not merely a different, newly-paved road ending up at the same ugly destination.

We need to redouble our activities now and keep working to build on our successful efforts so that we can exercise the influence necessary to fully engage the most powerful employer on the planet. The end result of our efforts must be that, regardless of the perceived fairness of the process that is implemented, the new DoD personnel systems must be shaped by us to be progressive, credible, and employee and union friendly. We need to keep working as hard as we can locally and nationally to build our strength within DoD so that we will continue to be heard loud and clear "at the table" as NSPS is developed.

Let us not forget, downplay, or ever take for granted the fact that DoD's recent turn of direction is the result of the continuous and thunderous outpouring of outrage by federal employees (DoD and other agencies), AFGE, and our sister unions since DoD announced its concepts paper on February 6th. The constant drumbeat of outrage expressed by our DoD employees, our lobbyists, picketers, letter writing campaigns, organizing, Defcon activists, staff, and coalition of DoD unions has made a huge difference!

This is not the time to rest on our successes but to expand our mobilizing, lobbying, and organizing efforts. AFGE's Headquarters' MORE Team, District Offices, and Defcon activists will be contacting all DoD Locals (and sympathetic Locals) to plan future events. Don't stand on the sidelines; the stakes could not be greater. Our website will have all the latest DoD information.

I sincerely thank you all for your efforts and support.

John Gage
National President
American Federation of Government Employees