WASHINGTON, DC – Yesterday, the House of Representatives passed the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2010, authorizing more than $26 million in crucial funding for New Hampshire, and including two amendments and several key measures added by Congresswoman Carol Shea-Porter.
Congresswoman Shea-Porter said, “My amendment to end the irresponsible use of burn pits will protect our deployed troops from dangerous toxins that may cause long-term health problems. When they deploy, our service members put their lives at risk and do not deserve to suffer this added, unjustifiable risk. My amendment to reform the National Security Personnel System (NSPS) will prevent future workers from being placed into a flawed and inequitable system, and will move current NSPS employees back to the General Schedule within 12 months.
“I was also able to include language that will save taxpayers money by requiring that contractors pay the military for medical care received from military field hospitals, hold reckless defense contractors accountable, and require a review of the challenges that arise when contractors are unable to communicate with the personnel they are hired to protect. While in Iraq, I noticed that a number of foreign contract guards were unable to communicate with Americans because of language barriers. The ability for contractors to communicate with those they are protecting or with the local community is an essential security protection measure, and I am pleased that this measure was added to the bill. Finally, I inserted language that will save taxpayer money by expanding the small arms industrial base to allow all American companies to compete. Overall, the Defense Authorization Act is a solid piece of legislation that will serve our troops and our country well.”
Shea-Porter was able to incorporate the following measures into the final version of H.R. 2647:
Protecting DoD and intelligence community civilian employees
Shea-Porter’s amendment will help protect DoD and intelligence community civilian workforce by prohibiting new hires from being placed in the National Security Personnel System (NSPS). It will also prohibit reclassifications of positions to NSPS and would require the DoD to transfer employees back from NSPS to their previous system a year after enactment. The same provisions apply to the Defense Civilian Intelligence Personnel System (DCIPS).
Holding reckless defense contractors accountable
Shea-Porter’s language requires the Secretary of Defense to prohibit award and incentive payments to defense contractors who are found, in a criminal, civil, or administrative proceeding, to have caused 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
Shea-Porter’s 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
Shea-Porter’s 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.
Shea-Porter also offered an amendment on the floor to the NDAA. It requires the Defense Secretary to prohibit the disposal of medical and hazardous waste in open-air burn pits during a contingency operation lasting longer than 12 months. It also requires the Secretary to submit a report to Congress on the use of such burn pits and safer alternatives. The amendment passed the House this afternoon.
Ensuring sexual assault investigations can be properly conducted in combat zones
Shea-Porter’s 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
Shea-Porter’s 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
Shea-Porter’s language directs the Secretary of Defense to provide a report to the Armed Services 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
Shea-Porter’s language recommends that the Secretary of Defense build a reimbursement system that does not require billing activities by military medical personnel. Instead it requires a medical treatment clause in all current and future contracts in combat zones. 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.
H.R. 2647 is available at http://armedservices.house.gov/