December 10, 2018
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The House and the Senate have separately approved their versions of the fiscal 2017 National Defense Authorization Act, a critical piece of legislation that establishes personnel and operational policies for the Pentagon to follow for the coming year. The lawmakers and their staffs have been meeting to discuss and resolve the differences in their versions of the bill.
“Every civilian and military employee in the Department of Defense should be paying close attention to this bill as it moves through the legislative process, because the decisions made here will affect them and their families,” said AFGE National President J. David Cox Sr.
Here are five key issues that they will discuss and make a decision on, and it’s all about your job and pay.
Federal civilian employees often work side-by-wide with military personnel and are crucial to ensuring our nation’s defense and security. Therefore, they should be afforded the same annual pay increases as those for the military. AFGE encourages lawmakers to retain the House-passed provision that would provide service members with a 2.1% pay raise in 2017 and to maintain the long-held tradition of pay parity between military and civilian employees.
Since fiscal 2010, Congress has banned DoD from conducting public-private contracting studies under Office of Management and Budget Circular A-76. This privatization ban was instituted because of systemic problems with the contracting out process and DoD’s failure to produce a full and meaningful inventory of its contractor workforce. Those issues persist, so Congress should reject Senate proposals to remove the A-76 ban and gut the requirement for DoD to produce a contractor inventory.
Lawmakers also should remove provisions in both the Senate and House versions of the NDAA that would allow more defense goods and services to be labeled as “commercial.” This would result in DoD paying higher prices for these goods and services, which would hurt taxpayers, civil service employees and the military.
Thanks to a DoD policy change two years ago, thousands of military members and civilian DoD employees who travel for more than a month at a time now have to dip into their own pockets to pay for routine expenses like lodging and meals. Rather than covering 100% of an employee’s nationally established per diem allowance, like other federal agencies, DoD now covers just 75% of the per diem for employees traveling between 31 and 180 days, and only 55% for employees on travel for longer than 180 days. A provision in the House-passed NDAA would stop DoD from reducing the per diem allowance. This provision should be included in the final bill.
In a misguided attempt to cut the costs of operating military grocery stores, lawmakers have proposed downgrading the pay and benefits of the Defense Commissary Agency’s 15,500 civilian employees by changing their funding status from appropriated to non-appropriated. This change would cut new employees’ pay by as much as one-quarter, force them to pay significantly more for health care insurance, render them ineligible for retirement benefits, and make it easier to fire them and privatize their jobs. Many of these employees are veterans or spouses of active-duty service members. This proposal must be removed from the NDAA.
Lawmakers also should reject a provision in the House-passed NDAA that would create a private, nonprofit organization to carry out all of the broadcasting and related programs currently performed by the Voice of America (VOA). AFGE opposes this provision because it would result in VOA workers losing their federal employee rights and protections. It is also likely to increase taxpayer costs significantly, as a similar move to de-federalize VOA’s Arabic Service in 2003 resulted on a 10-fold increase in costs without a resulting increase in benefit.
Federal agencies that are downsizing or restructuring can offer employees lump-sum payments as an incentive to voluntarily retire or resign. The maximum buyout has been capped at $25,000 since the Voluntary Separation Incentive Payment (VSIP) authority was established in 1993. The Senate version of the NDAA would raise the maximum payment for DoD employees to $40,000 to account for inflation and help DoD efficiently reduce the workforce without affecting mission or readiness. Lawmakers should include this provision in the final bill.
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Nearly 72,000 federal employees will begin receiving higher locality payments in January.
On Dec. 6, the House and Senate passed, and President Trump signed, a short-term stopgap bill that funds the government through Dec. 21.