Reagan Orders Agencies to Set Up Own Drug Tests : Asks $900 Million for Crusade
President Reagan, accelerating his national crusade for “a drug-free America,” today ordered mandatory testing of federal workers in “sensitive positions” but left the scope of the program to individual departments and agencies.
The President also sent Congress a legislative package that would increase federal spending in the war on drugs by $900 million and toughen laws and penalties--including, in some instances, death--for drug-related crimes.
“This is the federal government’s way of just saying no to drugs,” Reagan said during an Oval Office ceremony. “We’re getting tough on drugs and we mean business. To those who are thinking of using drugs we say stop, and to those who are pushing drugs, we say beware.”
The White House filled in details of a six-point program Reagan previewed Sunday night in a nationally televised address, delivered with his wife, Nancy, that urged Americans to mount “a new, great national crusade” for a “drug-free America.” (Story on Page 6.)
The most controversial element of the program detailed today was an order that federal workers in “sensitive positions"--and those affecting the public health or safety or national security--be required to submit to drug tests.
White House officials insisted that no estimate could be made of what segment of the 2.8-million-member federal civilian work force could be affected by the program, the scope of which will be decided by individual agency heads.
James C. Lafferty, director of public affairs for the Office of Personnel Management, said, “About half of the federal work force, a little over 1 million, has security clearances.”
White House legal counsel Peter J. Wallison said federal managers will have “a lot of latitude” to decide which employees under their jurisdiction should be singled out for testing, consistent with the broad guidelines contained in Reagan’s executive order.
‘Good Deal of Priority’
The Administration plan, to have the federal government set an example for the nation, budgets $56 million for drug-testing next year. Despite the wide discretion they will be given in administering the program, Wallison predicted that most agency heads “will devote a good deal of priority” to testing in view of the importance attached to that effort by Reagan.
Federal employees who could be candidates for mandatory testing are to be given what White House officials called a “60-day grace period” before the start of the program.
Those found to be using drugs will be referred to counseling. Those who refuse treatment or do not refrain from drug use in the future could be fired.
The Reagan program would increase spending on anti-drug efforts by $894 million next year. Reagan proposes no new money, however, and instead would redirect existing resources and order offsets in other areas of the budget.
‘Punitive Dragnet’ Seen
Robert Tobias, president of the National Treasury Employees Union, threatened legal action against the drug-testing program, which he denounced as “a punitive dragnet designed to ferret out users and abusers in a sector where there is no evidence of a drug problem.
“Reagan has opted for the role of hangman of federal employees, rather than playing the part of law-abiding employer,” Tobias said.
The House has approved a $2-billion package of anti-drug measures, including establishment of the death penalty for some drug-related crimes and assignment of a bigger role for the military in combatting the flow of illegal drugs into the country.
Reversing his position as announced by a spokesman last week, Reagan today endorsed the provision in the House bill providing for the death penalty “for those who intentionally cause death while committing an offense” under what is known as the “drug kingpin” law.