​Government-wide Federal Employee Provisions in Defense Authorization Bill

Provisions affecting federal workers government-wide included in the House-passed National Defense Authorization Act for FY 2019.

Seal of the U.S. House of RepresentativesToday, the House of Representatives passed the Fiscal Year 2019 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), H.R. 5515, by a vote of 351 to 66. The defense policy bill, which contains some government-wide provisions affecting federal workers, now heads to the Senate for consideration. Despite the rumored efforts of the Administration to add cuts to federal workers’ pay and retirement benefits to the bill, such changes were not included in the House-passed bill. NTEU will continue to work with Members of the House and Senate to remove and/or modify provisions listed below as the bill moves forward.

As I shared a few weeks ago, the bill reported by the House Armed Services Committee includes two provisions that are of concern to NTEU. Section 1107 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. These two sections have not changed.

During floor debate on the bill, two amendments were adopted by voice vote that impact federal employees. Representative Steve Russell (R-OK) introduced amendment 49, which would circumvent certain hiring requirements, including eliminating veterans’ preference, when hiring college students and recent graduates. In addition to concerns with curtailing veterans’ preference at a time when the country is still engaged in conflicts overseas, NTEU also has significant concerns about the limited notice requirement for internal candidates who could miss out on potential promotional opportunities in their home agencies, and further is concerned about limiting new federal job opportunities only to recent college graduates and those with higher education degrees, which could create a hiring disadvantage for those with high school degrees, associate’s degrees, or those who graduate from trade or vocational institutions.

Representative Dennis Ross (R-FL) introduced amendment 162 which would require an annual report from the Office of Personnel Management on agencies’ use of official time that would also require reporting on the total number of federal employees who solely conduct union activities under official time (individuals on 100% official time); the description of the use of federal property, including the square footage of office space and rooms provided for official time activities; and the specific activities and purposes for which official time was granted, and their resulting impact on agency operations. Given the fact that the most recent Office of Personnel Management (OPM) Report on official time refers to the practice as “Taxpayer Funded Union Time,” NTEU is concerned that this report is intended as an anti-labor initiative that will be used to erode official time and union rights. However, this measure does not alter, limit, or eliminate official time, and the same language cleared the House floor as a free-standing measure (H.R. 1293) in 2017, as well as in past congresses.

NTEU has worked extensively with both House and Senate allies to educate them on these issues.

I will keep you posted on any further proposals impacting federal employees as this legislation moves forward.