13 Things You Need to Know about Final Deal on 2016 Defense Authorization Act

Members of the House and Senate have finished the final version of the 2016 National Defense Authorization Act, and their final deal has more bad news than good news for federal employees, warfighters, and taxpayers.

President Barack Obama has issued a veto threat over issues unrelated to DoD civilian personnel. So currently the bill is considered dead on arrival. In the event Obama backs down on his veto threat, here are 13 things you need to know about this bill, which could soon be coming to a federal agency near you:

  1. It lifts the cap on service contract spending. The bill encourages DoD to hire more expensive contractors even though federal employees are the cheapest among the three workforces – civilian, military, and contractors. The cap on service contract spending put in place since 2012 to offset the department’s own cap on the size of the civilian workforce has been lifted.
  2. It extends probationary periods for new employees from one to two years.  This jump in employee’s probationary periods means they will be forced to work twice as long without full workplace rights and protections. Probationary employees have far fewer rights of appeal under nearly all collective bargaining agreements and the Merit System Protection Board (MSPB). The bill will chill the desire of most whistleblowers to come forward about waste, fraud, or mismanagement, or for employees to suggest new and better practices that might make them fall out of favor.
  3. It gives expensive contractors more work. DoD doesn’t have to try to save money by giving new work to federal employees even though they are cheaper than contractors.
  4. It shifts the financial burden of travel from the department to employees. The bill continues the cuts to the per diem allowance for employees traveling 31 to 180 days to 75% of the current per diem rate, and further reduces the per diem allowance to only 55% of allowable expenses for travel longer than 180 days. These employees will likely have to personally pay for official travel expenses.
  5. It puts the reduction-in-force (RIF) procedures at risk of favoritism and biases. The bill allows DoD to use a subjective employee evaluation to decide who should be let go in the event of a RIF. Objective factors such as veterans preference and length of service will not receive as much weight.
  6. It allows managers to manipulate pay. The bill allows DoD to use a subjective employee evaluation as a factor in deciding who should get a salary step increase. Employees who have undergone a performance improvement plan could be denied step increases even though their performance has improved and met the standards.
  7. It pushes a new performance management system. The bill recommended that DoD work with labor unions on the New Beginnings performance management system and immediately implement the initiative. AFGE supports the New Beginnings initiative and believes that until the new performance management system is overhauled, DoD should not implement the pay and RIF provisions above.
  8. It puts military readiness at risk. DoD is no longer required to consider impact on cost and military readiness when it wants to assign military personnel work currently performed by civilians. Far more often than not, these conversions did not promote professional development. In some circumstances, these conversions actually deprived military personnel of training. 
  9. It doesn’t require DoD to privatize its commissaries. However, the commissaries must be self-sustaining by 2018, i.e., no appropriations, which means employees could be turned into lower-paid Non-Appropriated Fund employees. 
  10. It prohibits retirement of A-10 planes.
  11. It improves pay and benefits for clandestine service civilian employees. The bill provides additional allowances and benefits for Defense Clandestine Service civilians and extends special pay and bonuses for DOD civilians serving in combat zones, as well as overtime pay for DOD civilians performing maintenance on the forward deployed nuclear carrier based in Japan.
  12. It doesn’t recommend closing or realigning military installations.
  13. It doesn’t repeal sequestration.

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