The Buzz

Pinko Pentagon

When Judge Emmet Sullivan of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia halted the Defense Department's proposed labor relations overhaul in late February, he also overturned a little-known proper-behavior provision tucked into the 106-page National Security Personnel System regulations.

The provision says union representatives had to follow the same conduct standards as other Defense employees. As American Federation of Government Employees lawyer Joe Goldberg noted, the rule would "make a union rep into a person who has to treat the management types with deference and all the warm and fuzzies." Sullivan overturned the clause, saying,"On its face, this regulation undercuts the very process with which collective bargaining is conducted."

The day after Sullivan's decision, a labor-management shouting match showed just how unfuzzy relations have become at Defense. Deputy Defense Secretary Gordon England told federal employees at a conference in Baltimore that bureaucracy in the department makes it "the last vestige of communism outside Cuba in the world today." National Federation of Federal Employees president Richard Brown retorted, "This is possibly the worst message you could send to all of the dedicated and patriotic Defense workers who devote their lives to serving this country."

Other than protecting the right to holler, Sullivan found that the proposed system's provisions allowing managers to override collective bargaining agreements by invoking national security went too far. He also rejected Defense's plan to replace third-party reviews of labor-management disputes with an internal board appointed by the secretary of Defense.

-Karen Rutzick

WHO KNEW?: Filing for Dollars

In March, a federal jury ordered contractor Custer Battles to pay $10 million for bilking the government on a contract to replace old Iraqi currency. Two whistleblowers, William Baldwin and Robert J. Isakson, are eligible for 30 percent of the damages; the rest goes to the Treasury Department. Under the 1986 False Claims Act, private citizens can, on behalf of Uncle Sam, sue companies they believe have defrauded the government, even if-as in this situation-the Justice Department decides not to pursue the case.

  • 64% Percentage of more than $15 billion in False Claim Act settlements and judgments for the government resulting from whistleblower lawsuits
  • $9.6 billion Amount redeemed by the federal government in these cases
  • $1.6 billion Whistleblowers' share
  • $784,597 Median amount recovered in these cases
  • $123,885 Median share for a whistleblower

Coming to America

All eyes are on Middle East investors after a Dubai-owned company's effort to operate some U.S. ports raised national security concerns. States from the United Arab Emirates, including Dubai, have bought more than 40 companies since early 2005, according to data from Thomson Financial cited March 3 in The Washington Post. But figures from 2004 show that the country investing most in America is its northern neighbor.

Europe 49%
Canada 41%
Asia & Pacific 6%
Latin America & Other Western Hemisphere 2%
Total: $79.8 billion

Source: Bureau of Economic Analysis

Execs: Be All You Can Be

Senior executives in the Army shouldn't get too comfortable where they are. The service is starting voluntary reassignments of some of its almost 300 Senior Executive Service members to new positions outside their specialties.

"That is to ensure the military service has well-rounded senior leaders who are experienced in the diverse mission of the U.S. Army," says Army spokesman Paul Boyce.

So far, only five executives have switched jobs because of the initiative, Boyce says, but it's just getting started. Some areas are SES-heavy, such as the Army Materiel Command with 85 civilian executives, while others are lacking-the Medical Command has only three. This policy switch aims to change that.

"Most of our positions, as you can imagine, they are predominately based on a particular technical specialty," Boyce says. Now, the Army wants its leaders to focus on broader skills such as management and teamwork, which they can apply anywhere.

More broadly focused executives are attractive to the entire Defense Department, too. Patricia Bradshaw, the new deputy undersecretary of Defense for civilian personnel policy, is spearheading an effort to require joint duty among the commands as a condition for high-level SES positions.

-Karen Rutzick

Spreading the SES

The Army wants well-rounded execs, so it's moving them out of their comfort zones to even out their numbers across commands.

Total Army Senior Executive Service slots: 284
Army Materiel Command 85
Corps of Engineers 46
Army Headquarters 115
Army Forces Command 4
Training and Doctrine Command 9
Medical Command 3
Other 22
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