National Defense Authorization Bill Passes, Includes Several Key Measures from Congresswoman Shea-Porter
WASHINGTON, DC – Today, the House of Representatives passed the FY10 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), which includes language from Congresswoman Carol Shea-Porter to repeal the National Security Personnel System (NSPS). Shea-Porter, a member of the Armed Services Committee, successfully amended the bill in Committee to protect the Department of Defense (DoD) civilian workforce by eliminating this unfair system. NSPS is widely unpopular with the DoD employees who have been forced into it.
“Today is a great day for the more than 200,000 DoD civilian employees who were forced into NSPS,” said Congresswoman Shea-Porter. “My language repeals NSPS and transitions employees back to the General Schedule. NSPS has been a failure, and I am pleased that workers will no longer have to tolerate this unfair system.”
The GAO has repeatedly found that employees and supervisors have serious concerns about the system’s lack of fairness, credibility, and transparency. According to the language Shea-Porter secured in the NDAA, the DoD will have a two-year transition period to transfer employees back to the General Schedule. The transition must be completed by January 1, 2012. The provision also corrects an inequity for NSPS employees by fully restoring their annual nationwide adjustment.
“Thank you, Carol Shea-Porter,” said Paul O’Connor, President of the Metal Trades Council at the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard. “You are a torch bearer for working men and women across our nation.”
In addition to the language that eliminates NSPS, Shea-Porter was also able to secure a number of other key measures in the NDAA. These measures include language that will prohibit the use of burn pits, increase accountability for reckless defense contractors, reform inflexible payment schedules for erroneous overpayments to service members, and expand the small arms industrial base.
Protecting service members from dangerous burn pits
There is evidence that veterans may become ill—and some may have actually died—as a result of exposure to the dangerous toxins produced by solid waste disposal “burn pits” that the Department of Defense has established for military and contractor operations in Iraq and Afghanistan.
This language prohibits the use of burn bits for hazardous and medical waste in contingency operations, including in Iraq and Afghanistan, with an exception if the Secretary of Defense sees no alternative. The Department of Defense must report to Congress whenever burn pits are used, justifying their use, and give status reports on the usage of burn pits every six months. This provision also requires the Secretary of Defense to submit a report on the health and environmental compliance standards for these burn pits, and on whether existing medical surveillance programs suffice to track exposures to toxic substances released by open-pit burning.
Holding reckless defense contractors accountable
This language authorizes the Secretary of Defense to reduce or deny award and incentive payments to defense contractors who are found guilty in a criminal, civil, or administrative proceeding of causing serious injury or the death of government personnel by gross negligence or reckless disregard. The Secretary is also authorized to recover all or part of the award fees for the relevant period. Congresswoman Shea-Porter was prompted to act after learning that defense contractors accused of producing defective work that endangered the lives of US soldiers were still being awarded multi-million dollar contracts.
Allowing service members to renegotiate repayment schedules for overpayments
This language reforms the unfair and inflexible repayment schedule that had been imposed on service members who were overpaid by no fault of their own. Payment errors are common in all military branches, but are especially prevalent among the Reserves and Guard because of their frequent duty status changes. These repayments have been causing financial hardship for many of our nation’s service members. Congresswoman Shea-Porter’s language states that the maximum authorized for monthly deduction is 15 percent (unless the service member chooses another payment schedule). Previously, the Department was allowed to garnish up to two-thirds of their monthly pay.
Expanding small arms industrial base
This language authorizes the Secretary of Defense to modify the existing small arms industrial base to best ensure competitive development and production of small arms, and a robust small arms industry. The DoD will report to Congress not later than March 10, 2010 what modifications it will be making to the small arms industrial base. Ultimately, this provision will increase competition and help reduce taxpayer expenditures, and ensure a strong domestic industrial production capacity. There are small arms companies in the First District.