NTEU Statement on the Fiscal 2023 Budget Request for FLETC
Subcommittee on Homeland Security House Appropriations Committee
Chairman Roybal-Allard, Ranking Member Fleischmann, and distinguished members of the Subcommittee, thank you for the opportunity to provide this testimony. As President of the National Treasury Employees Union (NTEU), I have the honor of leading a union that represents employees at 34 federal agencies, including over 700 instructors and support personnel at the Federal Law Enforcement Training Centers (FLETC) at their headquarter facility located in Glynco, Georgia and facilities in Artesia, NM, Charleston, SC, and Cheltenham, MD. FLETC is the nation’s largest provider of law enforcement training to federal law enforcement personnel. FLETC’s mission is to train all those who protect the homeland, and therefore, its training audience also includes state, local, and tribal departments throughout the United States. Additionally, FLETC’s impact extends outside our nation’s borders through international training and capacity-building activities.
Under a collaborative training model, FLETC’s federal partner organizations deliver training unique to their missions, while FLETC provides training in areas common to all law enforcement officers, such as firearms, driving, tactics, investigations, and legal training. FLETC also provides career-long training to federal law enforcement professionals to help them fulfill their responsibilities safely and proficiently. FLETC’s curriculum development and review process engages experts from across all levels of law enforcement, and FLETC partners extensively with other agencies and stakeholders in training research and the exchange of best practices to ensure it offers the most effective training subject matter, technologies, and methodologies.
Since NTEU was elected as the exclusive bargaining representative for FLETC employees, NTEU has tried to work with FLETC leadership on several issues of concern. These issues include increasing instructor staffing to address ongoing staffing shortages, mitigation strategies to limit COVID outbreaks, establishing reliable COVID safety protocols on their campuses, misusing instructors to complete various construction projects around FLETC resulting in a further shortage of instructors and working collaboratively with FLETC leadership to address these employee concerns.
FLETC Staffing: Full-time FLETC instructors and support staff provide career-long training to federal, state, local, tribal, and international law enforcement agency professionals. Under a collaborative training model, FLETC provides training to more than 100 federal partner organizations, 12 of which are within DHS, including law enforcement personnel that NTEU represents at Customs and Border Protection ports of entry. On average, FLETC trains over 18,000 students annually.
Fifty percent of the instructor requirements for basic and advanced training, as well as the tuition for basic training are provided through appropriations. FLETC receives reimbursable resources to fund the remaining 50 percent of instructor requirements and other training costs incurred by FLETC. The President’s FY 2023 request seeks funding for only 7 new hires, consisting of personnel that directly support the training mission such as Training Specialists, Training Technicians, Information Technology Specialists and Technicians, Facility Maintenance Engineers, and Utility Operators. The increase in FY 2023 is attributed to the addition of one FTE for Accreditation and three associated with the Zero Trust program.
According to our FLETC bargaining unit members, this funding does not meet current needs. For example, in the Driver and Management Division alone, FLETC is 15 instructors short of the 45 instructors needed. Appropriated funding levels for FLETC has not changed in years and it shows. FLETC’s lack of funding is negatively impacting the mission and the quality of training for federal law enforcement officers. FLETC has too few instructors to teach students and instructors’ skills are not being regularly updated by FLETC. The student-to-teacher ratio has diminished, and students are being shortchanged. NTEU has been told by FLETC that the mission is first, the federal partner organizations are second, the students third, and the instructors last. If the permanent instructor cadre is not being fully and appropriately staffed, the mission suffers. The instructors are the product that FLETC delivers. NTEU is seeking to work collaboratively with FLETC management and with Congress to provide additional funding to address the instructor staffing shortage.
NTEU is also concerned about the diversion of instructors from their teaching duties. For example, FLETC has utilized instructors to complete various construction projects on the 4 FLETC campus. Instructors are not trained in construction, nor is it part of their regular job duties. Instructors are employed as substantive specialists in training subjects and delivery of that subject matter to students, not as construction workers. In addition, the removal of even one or two instructors for construction projects contributes to the shortage of instructors and FLETC is paying instructors significant overtime to complete these construction projects. NTEU is also concerned that FLETC may not be adhering to OSHA guidelines or safety protocols when assigning instructors to do this work.
COVID Outbreaks: NTEU has continuing concerns about COVID outbreaks at FLETC and whether FLETC has reliable COVID protocols to address these outbreaks. Over the past two years, there have been several mass COVID outbreaks at various FLETC locations. NTEU has expressed continuing concerns that FLETC’s lack of sufficient COVID prevention protocols puts law enforcement personnel assigned there at risk. NTEU is working with FLETC to continue to improve its COVID prevention and protection protocols to keep students and personnel assigned to FLETC safe and healthy, but outbreaks continue to occur.
This past Friday, May 20, 2022, FLETC once again announced it was suspending training operations at the center due to a rise in COVID-19 cases. FLETC had 168 positive cases of COVID-19 as of Thursday, May 19, 2022, according to FLETC public affairs. When training was halted, there were 2,853 students representing 68 agencies on the grounds. FLETC granted an exception to continue training any class that has 75% or more of its trainees vaccinated, up-to-date, and boosted. Approximately 500 are remaining on base, though that number could change. FLETC has been housing 2,044 students at the center with 414 staying off center.
As the elected exclusive bargaining representative for FLETC employees, NTEU urges you to provide direct appropriated FY 2023 funding to hire at least 25 additional FLETC instructors and associated operational support personnel and funding to ensure necessary health and safety protocols are implemented at FLETC to limit future COVID outbreaks at their facilities.
Thank you for this opportunity to submit NTEU’s statement for the record.