Federal Employee Personnel Items in the Mix in Key House Defense

The House’s annual defense policy bill is being crafted and several federal employee personnel items are under consideration.

Seal of the U.S. House of Representatives
Seal of the U.S. House of Representatives

The House Armed Services Committee is scheduled to formally begin its consideration tomorrow of the annual defense policy-setting bill, the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA). While much of this bill addresses Department of Defense-specific issues, this measure is used at times to carry government-wide federal personnel provisions.

The current bill, H.R. 5515, includes two provisions that are of concern to NTEU. Section 1107 of the measure would expand the number of alternative personnel systems, that operate outside of the General Schedule, and Section 1109 would provide agencies with the ability to hire term and temporary employees for longer periods of time, and in certain cases, without providing public notice for positions. NTEU is concerned that this language will herald in larger attempts to derail compensation, performance management, and their negotiability, and that the hiring authorities will be used to hire short-term workers, without benefits, at the expense of hiring, full-time, permanent positions. Additionally, there are a variety of outstanding questions about the language and its impact that need to be fully addressed prior to passage and enactment by Congress.

Further, NTEU remains vigilant regarding the administration’s Friday request to Congress to significantly reduce retirement benefits. While the bill currently does not contain any changes to the federal employee retirement system, the bill will be amended by the committee this week, and once the bill advances out of committee, the measure will face amendments being offered on the House floor. Specifically, the administration is re-asking Congress to act on the retirement benefit cuts included in the President’s FY19 Budget Request by:

  • Significantly increasing Federal Employee Retirement System (FERS) employee contributions by about 1 percentage point each year until they equal the agency contribution rate. It would take approximately six years to fully reach the new employee contribution rate of 7.25 percent, translating into a massive pay cut (most FERS employees currently contribute 0.8% of salary towards their future FERS pension). Employee contributions by federal law enforcement officers, including Customs and Border Protection Officers, would increase by this same amount, but would not equal their greater agency contribution rates.
  • Basing both future Civil Service Retirement System (CSRS) and FERS retirement benefits on the average of the high five years of salary instead of the current high three.
  • Eliminating the FERS supplement which approximates the value of Social Security benefits for those who retire before age 62. This proposal would apply to all future retirees, including those individuals subject to mandatory retirement.
  • Eliminating the annual cost-of-living adjustments (COLA) for the pensions of current FERS retirees and future FERS retirees.
  • Significantly reducing the COLA for the pensions of current CSRS retirees, and future CSRS retirees, by about 0.5 percent annually from what the current formula would provide.

It is important to note that the vast majority of amendments offered and filed to the NDAA are not, in fact, considered. However, NTEU strongly opposes any attempts to reduce federal employee retirement benefits, and NTEU National President Tony Reardon sent a letter to the committee. While it is unclear at this time what language will be considered and ultimately advanced, NTEU has already reached out and is working with our allies in Congress.

I will keep you updated on this legislation.