Defense bill lets feds in national security jobs rotate between agencies

Monday - 5/7/2012, 5:51pm EDT

Rep. Geoff Davis

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Rep. Geoff Davis (R-Ky.)
This story was updated on May 16, 2012, to include Rep. Geoff Davis' interview.

Federal employees who work in national security positions would be able to rotate their jobs from agency to agency under legislation lawmakers will begin considering this week.

The language is included in the huge 2013 Defense authorization bill that the House Armed Services Committee will begin marking up on Wednesday. It is essentially a reintroduction of the Interagency Personnel Rotation Act, a bill that was introduced in both houses of Congress last year but has yet to receive a floor vote in either chamber.

The legislation is intended to better integrate the national security functions that span across multiple agencies and reduce duplication. It would create a new board overseen by the Office of Management and Budget and assisted by the Chief Human Capital Officers' Council that would define "national security interagency communities of interest" that span across multiple departments and agencies. Feds who work in those positions would then be able to rotate from their current jobs into another agency within their particular community, and they could also be ordered to another agency involuntarily.

Rep. Geoff Davis (R-Ky.), one of the cosponsors of the original bill, said it will allow agencies the flexibility to get expertise to where it's most needed.

It could also broaden the concept of what a defense employee is, he said. He cited the story of a friend of his, a military colonel assigned to oversee agricultural reconstruction in Afghanistan.

"Though this officer was highly motivated, he really didn't know anything about agriculture. So basically, what we wanted to do was, first of all, allow the executive branch and the agency community to define these interagency communities of interest," he said. "Then rotations would take place within that community across the agency spectrum."

The personnel rotation language is one of several workforce elements of the more than 500-page defense bill, which the House Armed Services committee released Monday ahead of this week's deliberations.

Agencies admonished over lack of contractor count

Also included is language which admonishes most of the Defense Department for failing to adequately count service contractors as part of the "total force." The committee language praises the Army for its ongoing work to count service contractors, but calls out most of the rest of DoD for failing to comply with a 2008 law that requires a contractor inventory.

"The committee continues to be disappointed that the defense agencies, the Navy, and the Air Force have not fully implemented the Inventory of Contracts for Services," the committee wrote in an explanatory message attached to the bill. "The committee notes that the Department of the Army has successfully undertaken an extensive manpower and costing inventory of all Army service contractors since 2002, and the Army's inventory has been designated as the model for implementation of section 807. The committee remains convinced that the inventory is an important tool to provide transparency in Government contracting and would be a beneficial tool for decisionmakers in their planning, programming, and budgeting."

The bill would withhold 80 percent of the operations and maintenance budgets of the Navy, Air Force and the Office of the Secretary of Defense until they convince Congress that an inventory has begun.

Language contributed by the Armed Services military personnel subcommittee would increase military pay by 1.7 percent, identical to the Obama administration's request. But it would withhold permission for DoD to begin increasing health-care premiums for retirees under the TRICARE health insurance system. It would also limit for the first time the rate at which DoD can increase prescription co-pays for retirees, limiting them to the increases retirees get for their annual cost of living adjustments. Existing law already ties TRICARE premiums to COLAs.

Overall, the bill authorizes $554 billion in DoD's base budget for 2013, $29 billion more than the Obama administration proposed, and also more than Congress agreed to in last year's Budget Control Act. The latter point raised concern for Rep. Adam Smith, the Armed Services committee's ranking Democrat.

"While there are many good aspects to this legislation, there are also portions and provisions that concern me. Given the size of our debt and deficit and growing budgetary pressures, I am concerned that the top-line number is roughly $8 billion over the Budget Control Agreement," Smith said in a statement. "Congress made a commitment to get our budget under control, and I fully expect that the Senate will honor the Budget Control Agreement number. We should do the same."

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