Job cuts to pay for anti-crime effort

September 14, 1994|By Julia Angwin | Julia Angwin,States News Service

WASHINGTON -- The crime bill, President Clinton has promised, will put more police on the street, build more prisons and "give our young people something to say 'yes' to."

But some government workers may wish they'd said 'no' to the law signed by Mr. Clinton yesterday when they discover that the $30 billion crime-fighting measure will be funded by federal job cuts.

"Mr. Clinton, Don't Cut Feds to Pay for Cops!!!" begs the headline of a recent Federal Law Enforcement Officers Association newsletter.

The 10,000-member group opposes plans to shrink government by cutting jobs from the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms and the Drug Enforcement Agency, among others.

"The administration's downsizing policy is pulling in the opposite direction of its crime-fighting policy," said Victor Oboyski, association president.

Mr. Oboyski estimates that the administration's policy will cost 1,500 FBI jobs, 216 federal marshals, 177 Naval Criminal Investigative Service positions and 531 DEA slots by 1995.

These jobs should be exempt from downsizing, Mr. Oboyski argued in a February letter to the president.

The president did not agree. "I do not believe that exempting entire programs from our work force reduction plan provides the best solution," Mr. Clinton wrote last month.

He encouraged Mr. Oboyski to look to the crime bill for money to compensate for the cuts.

But there are no hard numbers available on what the crime bill will do for federal crime fighters.

"We're trying to wait and see what will come out of the crime bill," said Art Gordon, an ATF agent who is president of the Baltimore chapter of the association.

He said the downsizing hadn't affected the chapter's 100 members so far. "I think we're all pretty optimistic," he said.

*

In summer 1993, James Hudson died of a heart attack while cleaning the Lincoln Monument here. But it was more than his collapse in the oppressive heat that drew national attention -- it was the dispute over his benefits that caused thousands to donate money to his widow.

As a temporary federal worker, Mr. Hudson was ineligible for health and life insurance normally granted to permanent employees although he had worked for the National Park Service for almost a decade.

The Office of Personnel Management announced rules yesterday that would bar the use of temporary workers for more than two years, except under special circumstances.

"By changing the way we do business -- that is, stopping the abuse of temporary hiring authority -- we are letting our temporary employees know that we recognize their contributions and respect them as people," said OPM director Jim King.

Current temporary hires could benefit immediately because the new rule allows agencies an immediate six-month window to convert current temporary employees to positions that offer access to pensions, health and life insurance benefits.

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