In the current lexicon, it has become politically convenient to call for cuts to federal agency budgets and steep reductions in the numbers of federal employees. However, those raising the calls in the name of political advantage give little consideration to how those actions will adversely affect services that the American people depend on.
Undoubtedly, responsible actions can be taken to reduce government spending, and federal employees are prepared to do their part. However, budget cuts can become dangerous when they impact our ability to defend our borders, monitor our food and water supply, safeguard our banking system, or any other of the many critical services that we count on and take too much for granted each and every day.
As president of the National Treasury Employees Union Chapter 141, I proudly represent nearly 400 Customs and Border Protection Officers, Agriculture Specialists, and non-uniformed CBP employees throughout the state of Maine, southern New Hampshire and in Halifax, Nova Scotia. The officers and employees I represent are among the most highly skilled, talented and dedicated federal employees and people you could hope to meet. Every day, they go above and beyond the call of duty to protect our borders from illegal entries, our food and commerce from threats to our agricultural base and economy, the influx of illegal drugs and collect duties, fines, penalties and fees that serve as additional revenue for the U.S.
Through my union affiliation, leadership, advocacy and federal employment over the past 26 years, I have had the very humbling opportunity to meet and represent numerous employees from CBP and dozens of other government agencies. They are doctors, lawyers, computer programmers, law enforcement officers, scientists, food inspectors, textile workers, carpenters, plumbers, electricians, janitors, secretaries and other highly trained, dedicated professionals.
More important to remember however is that they are not faceless bureaucrats. They are your friends, your neighbors and members of the communities in which you and I live. You see them in grocery stores, in churches, at school events, volunteering in the community and at the parks and ball fields. They pay their taxes and support local businesses and economies. Their children play right alongside yours and mine. They are an extremely essential and critical part of the very fabric of our communities and have chosen a career that supports our way of life and is dedicated to public service.
When entering public service, federal employees begin their careers with an oath:
“I ….do solemnly swear that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; and that I will well and faithfully discharge the duties of the office on which I am about to enter. So help me God.”
These are words that federal employees do not take lightly. They rest at the very heart of everything they do for their fellow Americans. Whether protecting our borders, finding ways for us to become energy independent, inspecting our food and drug supplies, caring for the air we breathe and the water we drink or collecting revenue that makes all of this possible, these words stand as the cornerstone for the service federal employees give our country each and every day.
As I look across our great nation, I am amazed at and proud of the deep impact my colleagues have on the quality of the lives of every person in America. It’s far too easy to take for granted the work they do; but it is essential the American public and our representatives in Congress not overlook their important work that protects and preserves the American way of life.
I hope that every American will take a moment to reflect on the contributions of federal workers and appreciate the commitment they make to serve the public. America’s federal employees: They truly do work for U.S.
Alan Mulherin of Limestone is president of the National Treasury Employees Union Chapter 141.