Budget Request for the Federal Law Enforcement Training Centers
Budget Request for the Federal Law Enforcement Training Centers
SUBCOMMITTEE ON HOMELAND SECURITY HOUSE APPROPRIATIONS COMMITTEE
Chairman Joyce, Ranking Member Cuellar, 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 headquarters 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. Of significant relevance to this committee, it is FLETC instructors that are responsible for training the U.S. Capitol Police officers that protect Members, staff and visitors in the Capitol complex. U.S. Capitol Police officers receive their basic training at FLETC. The officers that are charged with protecting the Congressional Leadership also receive their protective service operations training at FLETC.
FLETC’s mission is to train those who protect the homeland, and therefore, its training audience also includes state, local, county, 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 provides training in areas common to all law enforcement officers, such as firearms, driving, tactics, use of force, active shooter training, tactical medical response, arrest techniques, criminal investigations, interviewing, protective service operations, and legal training. FLETC also conducts agency specific training, advanced training programs, and in-service training for partners throughout the law enforcement community.
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. Some of these ongoing issues include: increasing the number of full-time permanent instructor staff, improving training facilities and office space, creating mitigation strategies to limit COVID outbreaks, increasing the quality of training that instructors and support staff receive, increasing the quality of training for FLETC students, improving morale, and working collaboratively with FLETC leadership to address these employee concerns.
FLETC Staffing Levels and Staff Training:
Unfortunately, FLETC’s ability to provide the highest quality training product is consistently diminished due to chronic low staffing levels and a failure of leadership to acknowledge and adequately address issues that result from those staffing shortages. The lack of staffing in a number of divisions and facilities has negatively affected the morale of the staff, increased burnout, decreased or nearly eliminated the time available and required for senior instructors to manage lesson plans and provide oversight, and virtually eliminated the ability of staff to attend training programs to improve their own skill sets.
For decades now, staff have been told by Agency leadership that FLETC does not have the required staffing levels or funding necessary to train their own trainers to a level of excellence expected from the partner organizations and the public. Ironically, the trainers at FLETC actually receive minimal ongoing training themselves. Often, students attending courses at FLETC have attended more recent and relevant training programs than the instructors delivering the material.
Excellence in training should be more than words in a mission statement. Excellence in training requires trainers to be provided with the best training themselves, which must include training provided by experienced and proven private and governmental entities. FLETC does offer some world-class training programs internally, but these, in and of themselves, are insufficient to meet the needs of many of our instructors that must continually evaluate evolving trends and training practices. With the current challenges faced by the law enforcement field today, nothing should be more important than providing the best training possible to our newly hired law enforcement recruits.
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 partner organizations, 12 of which are within DHS, including law enforcement personnel that NTEU represents at Customs and Border Protection ports of entry.
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. According to our FLETC bargaining unit members, this funding does not meet current needs.
Over the past several years, FLETC has suspended the hiring of permanent instructor staff because of fears that the Agency will be unable to meet financial obligations in the event of a long government shutdown or another COVID-type shutdown. As a result, FLETC has focused on hiring term employees and previously retired employees. This approach has massively increased the staff turnover and exacerbated problems with training quality. As an example, over 60% of the instructor staff in the Driver and Marine Division have turned over within the past 5 years. It is nearly impossible to maintain institutional knowledge and high levels of instructor consistency with that level of turnover.
For decades, FLETC has also struggled to hire current federal law enforcement officers and agents because the instructor salary levels and benefits are simply not commensurate with their current positions or other employment options. There is often no incentive for active federal law enforcement officers to become instructors at FLETC until they retire. Just recently and for the first time in over three years, FLETC has started hiring a handful of permanent instructors in specific divisions. However, this is simply not enough.
As the exclusive bargaining representative for FLETC employees, NTEU urges you to provide $17 million in direct appropriated FY 2024 funding to hire at least 50 additional permanent FLETC instructors and associated operational support personnel.
FLETC Facilities and Fleet:
FLETC facilities and the vehicle fleet are also an ongoing concern for NTEU. Right now, instructors sit in offices and shared spaces with holes in the roof above them, mold, and mildew on the ceilings, and collapsing floors. Students are forced to use portable bathrooms that are filthy, not adequately stocked, and not properly maintained. Classrooms contain televisions with blurry screens and audio systems that do not work because of their age. Vehicles in several driver training programs are often more than 10-15 years old with windows that can barely be seen through. Doors and PA systems are inadequate on the firearms ranges and constantly break down. And many of the firearms ranges need to be refurbished to prevent further contamination issues and reduce fire concerns.
Leaders in the Facilities Management Division have openly stated in past meetings with NTEU members that they have no defined lifecycle plan for buildings and other facilities at FLETC. Multiple times over the past several years the FLETC facility in Georgia has completely run out of fuel, and not restocked for days, negatively affecting training. This was not during a hurricane or emergency, but simply an unfortunate and consistent reality of the day-to-day operations at FLETC.
FLETC Senior Leadership and Funding:
NTEU remains concerned about recent employee survey results regarding the senior leadership trends at FLETC. The Partnership for Public Service’s rankings of the Best Places to Work in the Federal Government in 2022 uses the OPM Federal Viewpoint Survey as the basis for the their rankings. When ranking agency subcomponents such as FLETC, FLETC ranks #326 out of 432. This ranking is based on responses from agency employees to questions related to job satisfaction and whether they would recommend their agency as a good place to work.
Of great concern is the staff rankings of the Agency leadership. Under the “effective leadership” category, FLETC as a whole ranks #385 of 431. Senior leaders themselves under the “effective leadership” category rank #384 out of 431. Also of concern are the downward trends. From 2020 to 2022, the sub-agency median decline in the Engagement and Satisfaction for other federal government components was 2%. However, from 2020 to 2022, FLETC declined a staggering 9.9%, far and above the median decline of other sub agencies. NTEU is concerned that FLETC and DHS are failing to properly address these staff concerns and that the trends are showing declines far faster than most government components.
NTEU is optimistic that recent selections at the upper management levels of FLETC will recognize the challenges and the concerns of the staff and create a new path forward to address these ongoing shortfalls. Training quality, not quantity of students, is the number one priority of FLETC instructors and support staff. FLETC must be honest with Congress and the public regarding the resources they need to accomplish the important mission they have been entrusted with.
The President’s FY 2024 Budget requests $379.2 million for 1,115 Positions (1,088 FTEs) for the Federal Law Enforcement Training Centers and represents a decrease of $27.3 million below the FY 2023 enacted level. In addition, the Budget requests $359.1 million for FLETC’s Operations and Support for continued operations to include salaries, support contracts, travel, supplies, and minor construction and maintenance, including $66.7 million to fund basic training programs. Lastly, the Budget requests $20 million for Procurement, Construction and Improvements at FLETC.
At this moment, the number one priority at FLETC must be to hire quality and competent permanent staff members. NTEU urges you to provide $17 million in direct appropriated FY 2024 funding to hire at least 50 additional FLETC instructors and associated operational support personnel. We further encourage you to speak with the front- line instructor and support staff at FLETC to hear their concerns directly. They are some of the greatest instructors in the world and their insight and skill set is critical to FLETC’s vision of being a true center of excellence.
Thank you for your time and consideration.