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CHRIS VAN HOLLEN
In response to the attacks of September 11, Congress increased the authorized size of the NIH
NIH police are one of the lowest paid in the Washington metropolitan area. Making matters worse,
Severe staffing shortages cost NIH valuable dollars and human resources. For example, NIH was forced to spend $1.9 million in overtime costs in FY 2002. In addition, every time a police officer leaves the NIH, the agency loses thousands of dollars of investment in training. For example, NIH spent over $200,000 training the 20 officers that left in FY 2002 (34 officers have left since 9/11) for better pay and benefits. Therefore, NIH is not receiving the benefit of this investment.
Understaffing of officers -- sixty, as of last March -- has resulted in:
delays in responding to routine calls such as traffic problems, suspicious persons;
Under High Level Alerts, NIH Police Officers:
are unable to patrol off-campus facilities, even though required under these levels;
law enforcement and security responsibilities associated with the level of terrorist threat;
family/personal problems which adversely effect morale, alertness, and response times;
campus, enforcing traffic, and responding to standard calls; and
Jurisdictional restrictions placed on the NIH Police render the force unable to provide full law enforcement services to off-campus facilities, including the inability to fully investigate crimes or serve warrants. The current NIH Police jurisdiction stems from a delegation of authority from the General Services Administration, and is limited basically to the main campus in Bethesda. The only available coverage for the numerous NIH leased facilities in Montgomery County, MD, and the major NIH complexes in Hamilton, MT, New Iberia, LA, and Research Triangle Park, NC, is a
CHRIS VAN HOLLEN
combination of armed and unarmed guards, and local law enforcement agencies. As with the main campus, these facilities have very specialized policing needs. The disparity of police service provided is severe, and as a result, thousands of NIH employees, numerous NIH Bio-safety Level (BSL) 3 labs containing select agents and radioactive material and equipment, and animal care facilities in the off-campus locations are placed at greater risk. Without the full jurisdiction as provided for in the legislative proposal, the NIH Police:
are hindered when investigating crimes and threats against NIH personnel and facilities,
In closing, increasing security demands at NIH require upgrading the status of the NIH police force, to discourage attrition and encourage new hiring. I urge this Subcommittee and the full Government Reform Committee to give swift and complete consideration to H.R. 2276. In these times of heightened security concerns, we need to enact the NIH Security Act into law.
Thank you, Chairwoman Davis.
Mrs. DAVIS OF VIRGINIA. Thank you, Mr. Van Hollen, you are welcome to ask questions of the panelists.
Mr. VAN HOLLEN. I have no questions at this time.
? Mrs. DAVIS OF VIRGINIA. Then you get me. This is for the FBI Agents Association. My subcommittee staff, on their trip out West, heard some very compelling stories as we heard from Representative Mike Rogers earlier about the high cost of living areas, and their inability to buy homes, and as you heard him testify, you know having to put their house payments on hold and different things. What has been your experience in working with the FBI on issues involving
employee pay? Ms. SAVAGE. The most critical issue we're facing right now is the disparity in law enforcement pay and FBI agent pay around the country in high-cost living areas. Just overwhelmingly the agents that are assigned in some of these high cost of living areas, especially at the more inexperienced levels because their pay is lower, are scratching and clawing to get out of those areas by any way they can. They are trying to transfer through specialty transfers to hardship areas where they didn't have a chance to move to more desirable locations because they cannot meet their basic family needs. They are going into debt and unable to pay for retirement, unable to become property owners of any sort, unable to adequately pay for their families basic expenses. Like I said, when they have to go on-I worked with an agent who had to go on public assistance just to feed his family. They are having to go into military housing and happy to do so, but it's got to be a temporary-type move.
Mrs. DAVIS OF VIRGINIA. How often do you think this happens? Is it on a regular basis?
Ms. SAVAGE. Concentrated in a number of cities, New York, San Francisco is probably the most extreme right now because their cost of living is probably the highest in the Nation or one of the highest in the Nation. We have, you know, obviously significant criminal impact in New York, San Francisco, LA and those are probably the very worst, although there are others in significant need.
We face a huge anomaly because of the wage-base system that is currently in effect for general schedules. Basically, the Office of Personnel Management does studies periodically and probably not often enough, and they take a look at what wages are paid to an individual in a comparable occupation. Well, it's got a bifurcated problem, part of the problem they are comparing an FBI agent with advanced degrees and specialized skills with that of a deputy sheriff. And not that we don't appreciate and understand local law enforcement, but the type of skill level and education level, there is usually a tremendous disparity and that doesn't work. And also we hire as well as most Federal law enforcement, we hire on a national basis. We hire our agents. We send them to a training academy for 16 weeks, and then we may hire someone from Omaha, and we air drop them into San Francisco, where they have no real say in the matter.
So they're coming in from one area and then being transferred into another where they stay and be assigned for a significant
length of time until they can get their way out of there. Increasingly, even though they love the work, have high morale and love being an FBI agent, that's not the issue. They're going broke, and they're trying to find any way out of there. So those officers are increasingly inexperienced, even when we have an inexperienced work force in Federal law enforcement some of these critical offices have an even—they have an even less of an experienced work force than anywhere else. And they're trying to get into other areas that based on the wage-base system-you know, our highest-paid agents just about in the country are in Houston. And some of the other areas that they're trying to get to their basic standard of living can be much much higher because dollars only mean what goods and services they can buy. And in San Francisco, increasingly, the other area I mentioned San Francisco, New York, LA and those other cities I have left off, but an increasing problem is Washington, DC. And it just exploding in costs and it's very, very important for us to be able to attract our more senior and experienced agents into the Washington, DC, headquarters arena.
Mrs. DAVIS OF VIRGINIA. When you say Washington, DC, are you meaning Washington, DC?
Ms. SAVAGE. The whole metropolitan—the commuting area where they can afford to buy is far out in Maryland, far out in Virginia.
Mrs. DAVIS OF VIRGINIA. Representative Rogers made a comment about someone from Quantico. Is Quantico based on D.C. cost of living?
Ms. SAVAGE. All included in the same metropolitan statistical area. Because they want to look at what is the commuting range, they just can't base it on what it may cost for someone to live at 10 and Pennsylvania Avenue because there's no housing there. They have to come and work there so they may have to live in Fredericksburg or far out in Maryland and they're having a longer and longer commute, maybe 142 hours each way to get in here, but you still have to look at what their cost of living and even the OPM system how it works now based on wage rates, it's based on-that metropolitan statistical area is based on commuting rates because they recognize that. So that's why I say someone assigned to Washington and that's one of the major problems we have, because there's no incentive. They're going to put their family through tremendous financial hardship in order to raise their hand and be a law enforcement leader. And that we need not only good agents but we tremendously need the best and the brightest within our organizations to step up into leadership positions. And those leadership positions require that the individuals be well rounded and have experience not only in the field but they have to have experience at our headquarters and inside the Beltway to understand how government works and how they can more effectively go out and help their field office.
Mrs. DAVIS OF VIRGINIA. My time is up. Mark, do you have anything else?
I have one here that I am supposed to ask-never mind that was Bear with me, I am going to recognize our ranking member on the Civil Service Subcommittee, Mr. Danny Davis, and see if he has an opening statement. Any comment?
Well, I would like to thank you all for being here. We may have questions as time goes along and thank you so much for your patience and we actually made it without having to make you wait again. But thank you again for coming and appreciate it and hope we can work with each and every one to try and get something passed in the near future to do something to correct the disparities and the inequities that we have with our law enforcement personnel. Thank you all for coming.
[Whereupon, at 12:30 p.m., the subcommittee was adjourned.]
[The prepared statement of Hon. Danny K. Davis and additional information submitted for the hearing record follow:]