Sample Letter #1 for Passport Specialists

Dear Senator/Congressman/Congresswoman __________

The  August 2, 2014 Conyers v. Kaplan ruling of  the Federal Circuit Court of Appeals eliminated a long-standing and fundamental protection granted by the Civil Service Reform Act.  An employee's right to a meaningful hearing before the U.S. Merit System Protection Board (MSRP) is now denied simply because the position is designated as national security sensitive.

While we have no argument with the need for national security, we believe that the lack of appeal has already proved to be an irresistible invitation to abuse.  In December, 2014, the Consular Affairs division of the U.S. Department of State mandated that all 1,200 Passport Specialists be required to obtain a Secret-level security clearance.  However, Executive Order 12968 (July, 2012) states the number of employees eligible for access to classified information shall be kept to the minimum, and based on a foreseeable need for access. 

Passport Specialists currently have a “high public trust” clearance. The personal information that Passport Specialists deal with  is not classified information, as its disclosure would not cause grave damage to U.S. national security.  As such, there is no demonstrated or foreseeable need for a security clearance.  So why the costly move to upgrade Specialists’ clearance at State?

With the simple stroke of a pen, reclassifying these positions, this Executive branch agency has obtained the unchecked power to deprive more than a thousand  employees their right to appeal adverse personnel actions—such as suspensions and demotions – to the MSPB. As we’ve seen countless times before, when an agency can shield routine personnel actions from the appeal process,  employee abuse proves irresistible.

This proposal is just the latest abuse and injustice federal workers have faced over the last several years (and not just at the State Department): pay freezes,  threats to their retirement and health care, two rounds of furloughs, sequestration cuts and the government shutdown. As a result, many federal employees  are left wondering how they can make ends meet after  barely surviving the credit market meltdown and ensuing housing market crash.

It seems a cruel irony to take away a federal worker’s livelihood without any of  the usual protections afforded by due process.  One late car or mortgage payment  undermines his or her ability to obtain a security clearance which,  arguably, is unnecessary in the first place.   

Senator John Teste (D-MT) has cited concerns with the recent federal appeals court decision that allows the government to classify more government positions as security sensitive, thus depriving  federal employees of rights already granted them under the CSRA.  Senator Robert Portman (R-OK) has urged federal agencies  to postpone implementing further action “until the matter has been fully and publicly aired, and questions about its true scope, including the estimated costs and number of impacted federal workers, are answered.”

We urge you to support these efforts.

It is our sincere hope that we can rely upon you to help us and all other federal employees to rectify this situation,  protect our jobs and preserve our civil rights.

Thank you,