WASHINGTON, DC – Congresswoman Carol Shea-Porter was able to incorporate a number of key measures into the final version of the NDAA, including language that will increase oversight for reckless defense contractors, reform inflexible payment schedules for erroneous overpayments to service members, direct the Department of Defense (DoD) to submit a report on the health risks of “burn pits” to service members, ensure that sexual assault investigations can be properly conducted in combat zones, expand the small arms industrial base, require a report on contractor communications safety, and provide that contractors pay the military for medical care received from military field hospitals. Yesterday, Congresswoman Shea-Porter and other members of the House Armed Services Committee approved H.R. 2647, the FY10 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA).
Holding reckless defense contractors accountable
This language requires the Secretary of Defense to prohibit 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 language also requires the Secretary of Defense to determine whether the defense contractor should be debarred from contracting with the DoD. 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. The language inserted by Congresswoman Shea-Porter states that the maximum authorized for monthly deduction is 10 percent (unless the service member chooses another payment schedule). Previously the Department was allowed to garnish up to two-thirds of their monthly pay.
Protecting service members from dangerous burn pits
This provision directs the Secretary of Defense to submit a report on the health and environmental compliance standards for solid waste disposal “burn pits” that the Department of Defense has established for military and contractor operations in Iraq and Afghanistan. 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 these burn pits.
Ensuring sexual assault investigations can be properly conducted in combat zones
This language requires the GAO to report on the capacity of each of the services to investigate and adjudicate allegations of sexual assault. The department is also required to develop a sexual assault prevention program and must report on its ability to conduct investigations in a combat zone.
Expanding small arms industrial base
This language redefines the small arms industrial base to include all U.S. small arms companies. All U.S. small arms companies will now be able to compete for contracts to provide the military with small arms. This will increase competition and help reduce taxpayer expenditures. There are small arms companies in the First District.
Requiring report on contractor communications safety
This language directs the Secretary of Defense to provide a report to the Armed Services Committees on contractor language proficiency requirements for those working as private security contractors. The ability for contractors to communicate with the government personnel they are protecting or with the local community is an essential security protection measure.
Providing that contractors pay the military for medical care received from military field hospitals
This language recommends that the Secretary of Defense build a reimbursement system by requiring a medical treatment clause in all current and future contracts for combat zones that does not require billing activities by military medical personnel. This will ensure that contractors whose employees receive care in U.S. military medical facilities in Iraq and Afghanistan are reimbursing the U.S. Government for that care. The DoD Inspector General recently issued a report citing the fact that contractor employees were not paying for the services they received at military hospitals.