The American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE) wrote the leaders of the House Rules Committee Sept. 15 to express their opposition to amendments to the fiscal year (FY) 2022 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) that would create a civilian cyber reserve program.

The union, which represents hundreds of thousands of employees across the Federal and D.C. governments, noted their opposition to amendments by Reps. Jimmy Panetta, D-Calif., and Tony Gonzalez, R-Texas, that would create civilian cyber reserve forces within the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and the General Services Administration (GSA), respectively, calling the programs redundant.

“The Military Reserve Component already has mobilization authorities and well-defined ways for addressing emergencies that require not just temporary but typically prolonged mobilizations that take a reservist away from their primary employer,” AFGE National President Everett Kelley argued.

“The Military Reserve program, when evaluated from a fully burdened cost perspective, is most efficient and effective when there is a longer mobilization. Without turning this into a redundant species of the already existing military reserve program, this proposal will likely provide limited practical benefits to the government with just a series of temporary deployments,” Kelley continued.

The Panetta amendment would establish a pilot Civilian Cyber Reserve at DHS, while Gonzalez’s would create a National Digital Reserve Corps at GSA that would allow private-sector tech specialists to work on short-term government projects for up to 30 calendar days.

Kelley also argues that the temporary nature of the reserve assignments that would be designed by the pair of amendments would be ultimately disruptive for the Federal workforce. Additionally, according to Kelley, a major motivating factor for private companies lending their employees to the government for a short period could be to gain inside information on what the government is working on. For this reason, AFGE proposes a public disclosure requirement at the “bare minimum.”

“This proposal severely undermines competitive hiring and the underpinnings of an apolitical civil service and civilian control of the military by weakening the Office of Personnel Management,” Kelley said.

The House Rules Committee is meeting today to decide which NDAA amendments will receive a floor vote.

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Lamar Johnson
Lamar Johnson
Lamar Johnson is a MeriTalk Senior Technology Reporter covering the intersection of government and technology.