Press Releases

 

Wednesday
Jun172009

Statement of Congresswoman Carol Shea-Porter on the NSPS Amendment to the NDAA 

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

 

Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I am pleased to introduce this amendment regarding the National Security Personnel System - NSPS. It provides a responsible approach to resolving several problems with this controversial personnel system.

 

According to a November 2008 CBO review of NSPS, fewer than 20% of civilian DOD employees preferred NSPS to the previous personnel system.

 

It is not hard to see why that would be the case. The GAO has repeatedly found that employees and supervisors have serious concerns about the system's negative impact on morale and motivation; the excessive time that must be spent navigating the performance management process; and the lack of transparency in the rating process. Although the GAO has recommended that the Department develop changes to the NSPS plan to address these employee concerns, the DOD has refused, citing their desire that employees have more time under the system before making changes. Additional time in NSPS, however, does not resolve the problems inherent in the system. As the GAO found in 2008, the longer employees and managers were in NSPS, the more they disliked it.

 

In a Readiness Subcommittee hearing on NSPS in March 2007, Dr Marick Masters, Professor of Business Administration at the University of Pittsburgh, testified that "Pay-for-performance does not always work and may produce unintended negative consequences." The problem with NSPS, as Dr. Masters noted in his testimony, is that "the process is based heavily on supervisor ratings, and is highly subjective," The amount of judgment that managers must exercise in determining all of the ratings and pay decisions has caused systemic inequities and inconsistencies while doing nothing to protect employees from discrimination. The Federal Times analysis of payouts in 2008 and 2009 shows that white employees have been receiving higher average performance ratings, salaries, and bonuses than minority employees. Employees of the Defense agencies have been receiving higher ratings and payouts than their counterparts in the military services. In addition, performance ratings have not been consistent with payouts.

 

In February of this year, DOD suspended the conversion of its employees to NSPS in response to a request by Chairman Skelton and Readiness Subcommittee Chairman Ortiz. DOD then began a comprehensive review of NSPS that will be completed in September or October 2009. New hires, however, are still being placed in NSPS, and positions are being reclassified as NSPS - in advance of this review's findings.

 

My amendment prohibits that practice by prohibiting the DOD from placing employees in NSPS until after the review is completed.

 

My amendment also provides for conversion back to the General Schedule (or GS) of all NSPS employees within one year of enactment unless the Secretary of Defense notifies Congress of significant changes to NSPS. This language ensures that the review of NSPS will be completed in a timely manner and that the system will be reformed if it is to remain in place.

 

This amendment gives us the opportunity to take action this year on the recommendations resulting from the Department’s review of NSPS. Without this language, we would not be able to act until FY2011 and the serious problems would linger unresolved for yet another long year. Our dedicated federal workers deserve better than that.

 

This amendment also corrects an inequity for NSPS employees by fully restoring their annual nationwide adjustment. Currently, employees under NSPS who are rated "valued employee" and above, are guaranteed only 60% of the nationwide adjustment paid to all other civilian employees. Not only is it unfair to treat them differently, but this affects their income and even their future retirement benefits.

 

Finally my amendment also includes similar language on the Defense Civilian Intelligence Personnel System (DCIPS). Like NSPS, concerns have been raised about unfair performance ratings and negative impact on diversity. Chairman Skelton and Intelligence Committee Chairman Reyes requested that Secretary Gates and DNI Blair halt DCIPS, pending a review. Chairman Reyes has asked us to carry language covering the DOD defense intelligence employees, who also dislike their NSPS-like system.

 

Again, thank you Mr. Chairman. I would also like to thank your staff, especially Cathy Garman, who has been extremely helpful on this matter.

 

Wednesday
Jun172009

Shea-Porter to Introduce Amendment on NSPS

Congresswoman Shea-Porter will introduce an amendment today that will prohibit new hires from being put into the National Security Personnel System (NSPS) and prohibit any reclassifications of positions to NSPS. Congresswoman Shea-Porter has heard complaints from constituents who are under the system. She’s also a member of the Readiness Subcommittee and has heard testimony that is critical of the implementation of the system. Congresswoman Shea-Porter believes that NSPS has more potential to be unfair because it is more subjective.

 

I have attached a copy of the amendment.

 

Wednesday
Jun172009

Daily News from the Veterans Today Network 

DIOXIN: WHAT THE NAVY KNEW AND WHEN
What the U.S. Navy knew and didn't tell us
An OP-ED Paper by Chuck Graham, with Susie Belanger
by VN Vets


I'm a U.S. Navy Vietnam Veteran and I have had a claim in place with the Department of Veterans Affairs [DVA] since 2003. Like so many of you I've been on the hamster wheel and suffered through the Haas appeal all to no avail. Over the years I've researched any available material that might help prove that the U.S. Navy had knowledge to support the findings of the Australian Study, ENTOX, also called NRCET from 2002. This study involved the co-distillation of Dioxin through the fresh water evaporator systems commonly used aboard Royal Australian Naval Ships that were present in Vietnam. The same evaporator systems were commonly used by U.S. Navy Ships that were present in Vietnam, as the majority of the Australian Naval Ships were built at U.S. Naval Shipyards.
Read More >

 

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The Brothers of Holman Unit
Six Silly Stories from the Right about Universal Health Care
Two VA employees finalists in 'Service to America' Awards
Veterans will be in demand at job fair
Veterans group faces fundraising flap
Lynn, Revere, Saugus reps sponsor veterans Web cast

Tuesday
Jun162009

NH Sen Bradley - The Great Tax Debate 

The legislative session may be winding down rapidly but the greatest issue of all, the budget, is far from being resolved. The budget debate comes against the backdrop of a distressed economy with high unemployment rates and families and businesses struggling to make ends meet. Will the conference committee on the budget make this situation worse?

 

Unfortunately, despite our Live Free of Die motto, this debate is not between those who would frugally limit government and those who would inexorably allow it to grow. Rather, it could be called the Great Tax Debate as various factions of the legislature seek to add their preferred tax hikes to a budget bursting with higher taxes and fees.

 

Why is New Hampshire in such a tax predicament? Some would argue the recession and falling revenues to state coffers is to blame. That's only part of the story however, as Paul Harvey would say ‘the rest of the story’ is that spending in New Hampshire has increased dramatically.

 

New Hampshire’s current budget allowed total spending of $10.4 billion up from $9.36 billion in the prior budget. The budget the Senate recently passed proposes total spending of $11.6 billion and the House passed budget was only marginally lower. Bottom line: if this spending plan is ratified, total spending will have increased 23.8% over 3 budgets. It is hard to imagine that the average family or business in New Hampshire has seen their income increase by anything approaching that figure.....that is if they have any income left.

 

What makes these increases even more staggering is that spending is going down in other states around the country. The bi-partisan National Governor’s Association (www.nga.org) recently released a study that highlights an average 2.2% decline in state spending around the nation in 2009. Furthermore, our nation’s governors are recommending additional spending reductions of 2.5% this year. But, not New Hampshire, as there is little disagreement among Democratic conference committee members that total spending should increase by $1.2 billion.

 

With the exception of a few spending reductions such as closing the Laconia State Prison, the budget debate focuses almost exclusively on new or increased taxes. The House has passed a new tax on capital gains and estates, as well as increases on tobacco products, rooms and meals, insurance premiums, gambling winnings and gasoline. The Senate has passed expanded gambling for additional revenue, as well as increased taxes on tobacco, rooms and meals, and new onerous business taxes. Both budgets have numerous fee increases. Both budgets raid a fund paid into by doctors designed to keep medical malpractice rates in line. The $110 million raid of this fund will trigger an all but certain lawsuit which doctors stand an excellent chance of winning – because in reality it’s their money. More cynically both budgets underfund to varying degrees the state’s historic commitment to assisting towns and cities. So property taxpayers are going to be left out in the cold without a seat in this game of musical tax chairs.

 

Sound chaotic and controversial? It is and deadlines are looming. The package must first be agreed to by the nine legislators on the Committee of Conference, chosen to resolve the differences between the two budgets. Then both bodies must ratify the final package. But the House previously killed new gambling. Senators don’t like the capital gains and estate taxes. The House wants a gas tax. The Senate is ok with tolls. The Senate wants business taxes, the House would tax insurance premiums. And so it goes --- with precious little talk about decreasing the proposed $1.2 billion total spending increase.

The political reality is: neither plan may prevail. So rumors swirl of a third tax stalking horse waiting in the wings. Details are sketchy, but two new taxes are being discussed behind closed doors.

 

The first tax proposal would apply the Real Estate Transfer Tax to mortgage refinancing. In other words, as people try to refinance to lower mortgage payments in order to keep their homes, the state would impose an additional tax on them. At a time when Washington and states around us are adopting policies to help keep people in their homes, Concord is considering slapping a new tax on a family’s mortgage pain. The Portsmouth Herald astutely proclaimed this idea “completely off the wall.” Amazingly, proponents of this tax have not heard about what is happening in the financial world. The headline in the June 11th Wall Street Journal proclaimed that interest rate hikes (the result of $2 trillion federal deficits) are not only clouding economic recovery but “choking off a refinance wave.” This would be a very painful tax for struggling NH homeowners. It would undermine recovery of housing prices, and would not likely produce the revenue expected.

 

The second tax in the closet is an attempt to apply the 5% Interest and Dividend Tax to limited liability corporations. This tax would essentially be an income tax on the owners or partners of many New Hampshire’s small businesses. For business owners this is just a new déjà-vu. They already pay a .75% payroll tax on employee salaries called the Business Enterprise Tax. Business owners pay an 8.5% tax on profits. How does adding yet another levy these taxes make New Hampshire attractive for business?

 

Jim Roche, the President of New Hampshire Business and Industry Association called this proposal “alarming” and went on to say, “at a time when businesses up and down every Main Street in New Hampshire are cutting expenses and making painful lay-off decisions in response to the worst economic malaise since the Great Depression, it is astonishing to witness state policy leaders on the cusp of making matters worse.”

 

And just for good measure....the proposed hike in the Rooms and Meals tax may not raise enough revenue and could be jacked even higher.... at a time that one of NH’s largest industries, hospitality, must compete against other states for declining consumer spending.

 

So what about cutting spending? Those like myself who have proposed across the board cuts have been termed simplistic or just the ‘party of no’. Meanwhile despite the spin, these amendments to reduce spending in both the House and Senate have been defeated on a partisan basis. Yet amazingly, when Senator Sheila Roberge and I proposed a specific cut, ending the subsidy on dog racing that costs taxpayers $1 million, that too, was defeated.

 

There is no question that cutting spending is difficult. But what’s the alternative – a $1.2 billion increase in spending in New Hampshire while other states are cutting spending? Tax hikes to pay for state spending will only undermine New Hampshire’s competitiveness and ability to grow jobs. Spending cuts may be difficult, but are necessary. Spending cuts are also what New Hampshire individuals, families, and businesses are doing to survive. They are not claiming it can’t be done – they don’t have that option. Budget writers in Concord should take heed.

 

Tuesday
Jun162009

Daily Grind: $100 Billion IMF Line of Credit on the Fast Track, or Off the Track? 

$100 Billion IMF Line of Credit on the Fast Track, or Off the Track?
The U.S. Dollar on the Road to Perdition.

 

Editorial: Seeing Through the Rhetoric
Barack Obama's "created or saved jobs" claim is about as tangible as "hope and change."

 

Unions in Debt
As the Wall Street Journal details, buying elections has left Unions' wallets empty.