The House of Representatives July 14 passed its version of the fiscal 2023 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) that includes many AFGE priorities seeking better pay, benefits, and working conditions for government workers.
The bill, H.R. 7900, passed the House with overwhelming bipartisan support authorizing $840.2 billion in defense spending, about $37 billion more than requested in the President’s budget proposal.
The bill includes AFGE-backed provisions that would:
- Put employees at the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) on the same pay system as most federal employees and require TSA to apply the same Title 5 personnel rules to TSA employees.
- Eliminate the Department of Veterans Affairs Asset and Infrastructure Review Commission and save nearly one-third of VA medical centers from being closed or downsized.
- Protect the integrity of the competitive civil service by preventing any future administration from reviving the Trump-era Schedule F, which could be used to arbitrarily fire federal employees.
- Provide for a 4.6% pay raise for military and DoD civilian employees, mirroring the Biden administration’s proposed pay raise for all federal employees. It would also provide a temporary supplementary 2.4% “inflation bonus” for lower-income military personnel and civilians making less than $45,000 a year.
- Create a presumption that federal firefighters who contract cancer or other diseases were sickened as a result of their jobs, making them eligible for workers’ compensation.
- Provide financial support for Department of Defense civilian employees to pursue programs of education at institutions of higher learning that have been designated as a Center of Academic Excellence in Cyber Education.
- Ensure VA nurse pay stays competitive with the private sector by requiring hospitals to conduct locality pay surveys.
- Direct the Government Accountability Office to review the parity between the Federal Wage System (FWS) and the prevailing wage rate for wage grade workers who maintain, repair, or help support those who maintain or repair U.S. Navy ships or submarines at the four U.S. Navy public shipyards or at naval bases in competitive job markets.
- Give the District of Columbia mayor the same authority over the National Guard that governors of states and territories have.
- Prohibit arbitrary personnel caps and arbitrary reductions of the DoD civilian workforce.
- Protect the workforce at military depots through computation of carryover funding needed to stabilize depot workforce hiring.
- Identify the organic industrial base workforce hiring levels needed to sustain core requirements early in the acquisition planning cycle for major weapon system acquisitions.
- Ensure that Congress is fully briefed on the contributions of the civilian workforce to readiness, lethality, and reduction of stress on the military force and efforts to ensure greater accountability over contract services budgets to prevent privatization of the appropriated fund workforce.
- Improve the transparency of service contracts.
- Prevent job outsourcing by retaining the moratorium on A-76 public-private competitions.
“This bill contains many of our legislative priorities, including more competitive pay and job protections for the hard-working civil servants who keep our federal government running,” AFGE National President Everett Kelley said. “We applaud the House for passing this legislation in a bipartisan fashion, and we look forward to working with the Senate and the conference committee to further improve this legislation.”
The Senate version
The Senate has its own version of the bill, which passed the Senate Armed Services Committee on June 16, authorizing $45 billion more than requested in the president’s budget. The Senate bill doesn’t have the 2.4% inflation bonus for lower income employees like the House version does.
The Senate Armed Services Committee could advance the bill as early as this week, opening it up to floor amendments that could include matters outside the jurisdiction of the Armed Services Committees.
Any differences between both bills will have to be ironed out in conference negotiations that include the White House and Pentagon and are mainly negotiated by professional committee staff working for the Chair and Ranking Members of the Senate and House Armed Services Committees.
That process could be delayed to as late as December because of disagreement on the top line numbers that have not been resolved in the parallel appropriations process. The top line numbers for DoD affect many other legislative issues affecting the funding levels of non-Defense civilian agencies and entitlement programs, including federal retirement, federal employee health benefits, Social Security and Medicare funding. This issue could also affect how other legislative controversies are dealt with, creating significant political incentives for delaying the process like last year.
Some issues that we want addressed in Conference
- An amendment banning U.S. military exchanges from selling goods manufactured in or imported from China. This would effectively privatize the military exchanges as the restriction would not apply to the exchanges’ competitors in the private sector. In other words, private companies would be able to sell cheaper products, making it harder for the exchanges to compete, thereby affecting the non-appropriated fund jobs.
- An amendment that would direct the Navy and Air Force lodging be privatized similar to the Army. When this change was implemented in Army lodging, it was not found to meet expectations for facility restoration and resulted in higher per diem rates for Army travelers. The Congressional Budget Office found this privatization would cost DoD an additional $5 billion.
- The Biden administration’s statement of policy regarding legacy weapon system that could substantially reduce Operations and Maintenance funding, which would result in reductions in force of the civilian workforce, primarily in Defense agencies.
- There are continued, piecemeal efforts in both the House and Senate bills each year to whittle away at competitive service Title 5 protections and create separate Title 10 personnel systems with fewer protections and less equitable compensation. While AFGE mostly succeeded in preventing significant erosion in the House bill, there is an opportunity to strengthen the competitive service and title 5 by trying to get the bi-partisan S. 3423, “Chance to Compete Act of 2022” included as a floor amendment to the Senate bill.