What Does Congress Have in Store for Defense Workers?

The Senate and House Armed Services Committees have approved their versions of the 2018 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) with several provisions supported by AFGE. The bill, which establishes funding levels and sets policies for the Defense Department, is expected to be voted on by the House the week of July 10th. It’s not clear when the Senate will vote on its version.

Even though this is not final yet, here are some important victories for AFGE members: 

The privatization ban remains in place. 

Since fiscal 2010, Congress has banned DoD from conducting controversial 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. Since then, there have been attempts by special interests to lift the ban even though private contractors are two to three times more expensive than federal civilian employees. Thanks to AFGE activists, the latest attempt to lift the ban in the House was rejected prior to the markup. 

The Senate version of the bill extends the A-76 ban for another year. 

The civilian workforce needs to be tied to the national military strategy. 

The House bill requires that any change in military force structure must be accompanied with the needed civilian support. The size of the civilian workforce needs to be tied to the national military strategy. DoD components can’t just arbitrarily layoff civilians in response to politicians’ calls to make the government smaller.

A proposal to convert DoD civilians into a temporary workforce is rejected. 

An attempt to convert ALL DoD civilian employees to a term or temporary workforce under Title 10, which primarily covers the military, was rejected, thanks to an aggressive effort by AFGE to kill it. The proposal would have stripped the DoD workforce of due process protections, including the rights to collectively bargain for a voice at work. Rather, the committee requires the creation of a 10-year pilot program on a civilian personnel system for cybersecurity and legal professionals within the DoD.

While this provision is not as bad overall, it still could raise significant concerns, and AFGE looks forward to evaluating the proposal when the text of the bill is released to the public. 

There will be no BRAC. The House committee adopted an amendment by Rep. Bill Shuster of Pennsylvania to make it clear this bill does not authorize a Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC). 

DoD's ordered to improve acquisition management. The department needs to improve its service acquisition management. The House version includes several acquisition reforms, such as a requirement for DoD to incorporate service contracts in its future year defense program and budget to ensure adequate planning. Senior leadership needs to be identified if a defense component needs to use a "bridge contract" on short notice as a result of inadequate planning. The board that review service contracts is required to have a checklist identifying all the statutory restrictions against outsourcing work performed by civilian employees during the evaluation process. 

Per diem allowance has been restored. 

Thanks to a DoD policy change three years ago, thousands of military members and civilian DoD employees who travel for more than a month have had their per diem allowance reduced by as much as 45% and risk having to personally 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 version would halt further implementation of the reduced per diem policy until DoD provides Congress with a report on options to reduce its travel budget.

Depot/arsenal workforce is protected. 

Several attempts to privatize more depot/arsenal work, which could compromise national security, were rejected. Prior to the markup, there was an attempt made by 32 members of Congress to expand the definition of commercial items to include military specific items such as military tanks and military jets to send more workload to the private sector. The proposal was rejected. Also prior to mark-up, a proposal was rejected that would delete the 50/50 public-private depot law guaranteeing a 50% floor of depot workload to the public sector. The purpose of the 50/50 law was to maintain the government’s expertise and continuity for national security purposes.

The House version has several provisions that would protect the government’s depot/arsenal workload and its workforce, including a provision that would directly transition term and temporary employees to permanent status if they had already gone through the competitive process for their initial hire and have been working for at least two years. These employees do not have to have an additional probationary period. The House committee also extends the direct hiring authority for all government-run depots and arsenals for five more years to allow for quicker hiring. Without this direct hiring authority, the normal hiring process through the Office of Personnel Management could take up to nine months.

The depot/arsenal workforce is the one of biggest single civilian workforces in the Defense Department. There are more than 75,000 civilian depot maintenance employees across 17 facilities, including scientists and engineers, who work at Army depots, Air Force air logistic complexes, Navy shipyards, Navy Fleet Readiness Centers (air depots) and Marine Corps depots. AFGE represents the employees at each type of facility and is the largest representative of depot and arsenal employees in the organic industrial base. 

Arbitrary caps on the civilian workforce is prohibited. 

The House Appropriations Defense Subcommittee recently approved the 2018 DoD spending bill. In it, there’s language prohibiting managing civilian employees to caps. 

Stay tuned for more updates as the Senate NDAA markup was closed to the public and there may be additional matters relevant to federal employees. Until then, we need to keep the pressure on.

Call your members of Congress at (844) 669-5146 (D.C. office) or (888) 775-3148 (District office) and ask them to support our provisions and defeat attempts to destroy the civil service and our voice at work. Make sure you do not call during duty time or use government equipment.


Recent AFGE News:

These 3 Legislative Victories Prove We Are Stronger Together

September 22, 2017

Special interests’ and their allies in Congress’ attacks on federal employees’ pay, benefits, and rights were relentless the past few weeks, but they couldn’t match the will and activism of AFGE members who bombarded Congress with calls, letters, and visits to their lawmakers. The results? These three major legislative victories that protect the civil service, jobs, and taxpayer dollars.

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