OPM Releases Final Regulations Allowing Flags for Fallen Feds

SEA, the National Active and Retired Federal Employees Association (NARFE), and the Federal Law Enforcement Officers Association (FLEOA) released a joint statement on the regulations.

Washington, D.C. – The Senior Executives Association (SEA), the National Active and Retired Federal Employees Association (NARFE) and the Federal Law Enforcement Officers Association (FLEOA) are pleased the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) has, at long last, issued final regulations implementing 2011 legislation allowing federal agencies to provide flags to the next of kin of civilian employees killed in the line of duty. More than 20 federal employees have been killed in the line of duty since the law was enacted. Although federal agencies have had the ability to honor these fallen employees since the legislation was enacted three years ago, no information is available regarding whether they have done so. The final regulations, however, make clear that agencies can and should honor the sacrifice made by civilians in service to our country.

"When I was first approached for SEA's help with the proposal to provide flags to the next of kin of fallen federal employees, I was shocked that this wasn't already being done. SEA was honored to lead a coalition to ensure this long-overdue recognition would be provided for civilian federal employees who are killed in the line of duty," stated Carol Bonosaro, president of the Senior Executives Association. "It is a small measure to recognize their work on behalf of their country and the American people – work that is often done with great dedication, but little fanfare. The honor of a flag is an appropriate way for agencies to recognize the sacrifice of their employees and SEA hopes they have already begun to embrace this policy."

By way of background, in December 2010, two former federal executives, Terry Newell and Bob Gest, began a grassroots effort to provide a U.S. flag for every federal civil servant killed in the line of duty. Following publication of several op-eds written by the duo in local and national papers, including The Washington Post, and with the support of the organizations referenced above, the idea found support on Capitol Hill. Rep. Richard Hanna, R-NY, and then-Sen. Daniel Akaka, D-HI, introduced legislation to provide a flag to federal employees killed in the line of duty, and the bill was signed into law by President Obama in December 2011.

"Since 1992, more than 3,000 federal employees have lost their lives working for us across the country and around the world," commented Joseph A. Beaudoin, NARFE president. "These are brave Americans who were doing their part for our nation as border patrol agents, drug enforcement agents, public health officials, disaster first-responders, FBI officers, astronauts and in countless other vital government roles, including those who lost their lives nearly a year ago during the Navy Yard shooting. Their loss is tragic, but their families will finally receive a much-deserved symbol of recognition of their sacrifice."

"Every day, federal law enforcement officers face dangerous situations and put their lives on the line to ensure justice and protect the American people. This honor is fitting and should be granted by agencies without hesitation," added Jon Adler, national president of the Federal Law Enforcement Officers Association.

The release of the regulations follows a recent letter to OPM Director Katherine Archuleta from the organizations calling for their immediate release given the length of time since the original bill passed. However, the above organizations remain concerned that the final regulations do not require an agency official to proactively offer the flag to the next of kin but, rather, place the burden of a request on grieving families and loved ones.

"SEA, NARFE and FLEOA plan to work with OPM and agencies to make it a practice, not an option, to offer a flag to the next of kin of a federal employee killed in the line of duty. It is the least we can do to acknowledge and honor such sacrifice," said Bonosaro.