If you are a veteran, military member, military spouse, or Defense or Veterans Affairs employee, you need to pay attention to the Senate 2016 Defense Authorization bill (H.R. 1735) and amendments to the measure. There are provisions that would either cut a critical financial relief for your family, punish you if you ever report wrongdoing, take away your job, or politicize the reduction-in-force process.
AFGE has been working with several senators to offer six amendments to the bill. We are also working to defeat an amendment that would undermine VA whistleblowers and possibly those in other agencies.
It’s unclear when the Senate will vote on these amendments. But at least one of them, the Inhofe amendment, could come up next week.
Here are the measures that AFGE supports:
1. SA 1728 to prevent privatization of commissaries, which employ many military spouses. The amendment would require DoD to do a study before privatizing commissaries. (Sponsored by Sens. James Inhofe and Barbara Mikulski)
2. SA 1557 to return jobs to the U.S. and strengthen national defense. This amendment would require DoD to identify major components and critical parts of weapons that are manufactured by foreign companies overseas so that DoD can study the possibility of manufacturing these critical components at government-owned, government-operated arsenals and depots. This would create jobs and maintain key manufacturing skills necessary for the national defense. (Sponsored by Sen. Dick Durbin)
3. SA 1690 to save money and prevent illegal outsourcing. The amendment would extend the cap on the amount of service contract spending to offset the cap that the Pentagon has imposed on the size of the civilian workforce. The cap, which has been in place since 2012, would make it more difficult for the department to shift work performed by downsized civilians to more expensive contractors. (Sponsored by Sen. Ben Cardin)
4. SA 1967 to save money. The amendment would establish guidelines to govern conversions of non-military essential functions from civilians to military personnel, who cost more than civilians. About 500,000 military personnel are currently performing those functions. (Sponsored by Sens. Bob Casey and Murkowski)
5. SA 1965 to save money. The amendment would require DoD to assign new work to the most cost-effective provider when cost is the sole criterion. Too much new work is automatically given to contractors because of constraints on the size of the civilian workforce. (Sponsored by Sen. Sherrod Brown)
6. SA 1869 to prevent the reduction-in-force (RIF) process from being politicized. If there’s a lesson learned from the failed NSPS, it’s that performance rankings were often a function of geographic proximity to the Pentagon, budget, age, gender, and race. DoD is close to finalizing a new performance management system. This amendment would make sure veterans’ status and seniority are placed above subjectivity and biases when the agency conducts a RIF. (Sponsored by Sen. Patty Murray)
The amendment that AFGE opposes:
1. SA 1607 to allow management to retaliate against VA whistleblowers. This amendment would strip employees who are the eyes and ears on the ground looking out for veterans of the job protections they need to continue to speak up against mismanagement. (Sponsored by Sen. Ron Johnson)