|6:56 PM EDT||
Jay Inslee, D-WA 1st
Mr. INSLEE. Mr. Chairman, this amendment brought by myself and my colleagues, Mr. Van Hollen and Mr. Jones, seeks to protect very basic job securities for Department of Defense employees by blocking funds for those parts of the National Security Personnel System that have been declared illegal. The workplace environment that would result if this amendment does not pass, that results in destroying basic worker rights; jeopardizes our ability to recruit and maintain qualified,
skilled workers to protect our national security. These are hardworking men and women. They deserve our gratitude, they deserve our respect, they deserve a personnel system that respects their work and complies with principles that we hold forth.
I have got to tell you, I just want to note who we are talking about here. These are the men and women who make sure that our equipment works. When I went out and saw the Carl Vinson, one of our great carriers coming back from the Afghanistan campaign, the sailors asked me to thank the people who worked on that carrier to see to it that it could launch 10,000 sortees without losing an airplane.
These people are part of the defense team. They deserve respect. But, unfortunately, the current situation does not give them either respect or fairness in the personnel system.
It is worth noting that the Office of Personnel Management questioned the legitimacy of this new program in March 2004 in a letter to Secretary Rumsfeld and said, ``The current system may be contrary to law insofar as it attempts to replace collective bargaining with consultation and eliminate collective bargaining agreements all together. In addition, other elements of the proposal lack a clear and defensible national security nexus and jeopardize those parts that do.''
Now, this is not just us speaking; it is the Federal courts. At the beginning of this year, U.S. Federal District Court Judge Emmitt Sullivan ruled that the NSPS system failed to ``ensure even minimal collective bargaining rights.'' The court further enjoined the National Security Labor Relations Board on the grounds that it did not satisfy congressional requirement for independent third-party review. It has been declared illegal.
Now, one might assume after such a ruling had come down that the Pentagon would attempt to fix the problem and that the administration would do so, but in fact that has gone on after 3 years. They are essentially snubbing their noses at collective bargaining rights, at civil service rights, at the right to know whether you are discharged or what your discharge would be, basic fundamental rights that we ought to give to the people who are critical members of the defense team.
That is why we bring this amendment, to preserve the right to be free from discrimination based on political opinion, something that our Civil Service rules need to protect; and the right to collective bargaining, to engage in collective bargaining in good faith; the right to due process for advance notice of suspension and some meaningful appeal rights for people who work on the defense team.
So we are offering a commonsense amendment that will recognize that we should not be forcing this broken system that has been ruled illegal for people who are doing such great work for us, keeping our uniformed personnel on the post in Iraq and Afghanistan. We commend this amendment to our colleagues' attention.
|7:00 PM EDT||
Walter B. Jones Jr., R-NC 3rd
Mr. JONES of North Carolina. Mr. Chairman, I move to strike the last word.
Mr. Chairman, I rise in support of this amendment, a simple and commonsense statement from this Congress that says we stand with our Nation's Federal civilian employees.
We are here today to take a stand and rein in a personnel system that is opposed by nearly each and every one of the 700,000 members of the DOD Federal civilian workforce.
The National Security Personnel System, or NSPS, is a system that restricts our Nation's Federal civilian employees of their collective bargaining rights, as well as the right to have an independent labor relations board settle disputes, as was recently affirmed in a court of law.
This amendment would withhold the funding to go forward on implementing only those portions of the NSPS declared illegal. It would not arbitrarily kill the system as a whole, but allow Congress to carry out its oversight responsibility.
Congress has continuously affirmed its strong support of the men and women in our Nation's military. Today, with this amendment, we are asking the same thing, reaffirm your support for our Nation's Federal civilian workforce.
Mr. Chairman, by passing this amendment we will help send a message to these highly valuable men and women that we stand with them today; that we stand with those Federal civilians who maintain and repair our Navy and Marine Corps' battle-worn helicopters; that we stand with those Federal civilians who capitalize and upgrade our Army's Bradley fighting vehicles and Abrams tanks; that we stand with those Federal civilians who skillfully manage our Air Force's logistics and distribution operations;
and that we stand with those Federal civilians who maintain, overhaul and upgrade our Navy's fleet of ships, submarines and aircrafts.
I hope that my colleagues in this House of Representatives will join us and vote ``yes'' on this amendment.
|7:02 PM EDT||
Chris Van Hollen, D-MD 8th
Mr. VAN HOLLEN. Mr. Chairman, I move to strike the requisite number of words.
I am pleased to join with my colleagues Mr. Inslee and Mr. Jones in offering this amendment, and the issue here is really straightforward: Are we going to require the Department of Defense to comply with guidelines established by this House and this Congress, or are we going to allow them, one more time, to ignore the will of Congress and roll over us here in the House of Representatives?
Here is the situation. Back in 2004, this House passed the defense authorization provision that allowed the Defense Department to go out and set up a new personnel system, but we did it with certain guidelines. We wanted to provide the Department of Defense with greater flexibility, but we also wanted to ensure fairness to the employees.
Here is what happened. The DOD took the flexibility part, and they ignored the portions requiring fairness to employees. They ignored the provision that required, for example, an independent entity to arbitrate certain disputes between management and labor. They ignored the provisions that said you have to have a merit system protection board that has an independent judgment, instead of allowing the Defense Department to essentially overrule the decisions, at least on a preliminary basis, of
an independent merit system protection board. So they made a number of changes to the congressional intent.
As my colleague Mr. Inslee said, you do not have to take our word for it. Just listen to what a Federal judge said, and that is Judge Emmet Sullivan. He is the first person in the District of Columbia to have been appointed by three United States Presidents to three judicial positions, and he ruled in favor of the employees who brought a case and challenged the administration's decision on this. He said it was ``the antithesis of fairness'' the way DOD had set up its system and determined
that it was outside the scope of what the Congress had mandated.
Now, they have ruled. That ruling came down in February. We have had a Federal judge, therefore, stick up for the Congress. The question is, are we going to stick up for ourselves? Did we mean what we said back there? A Federal judge has looked at the law and said, clearly, the DOD provisions are outside the scope of what we intended. Anyone who takes a fair look at what this Congress said to the administration and to the guidelines that we had in setting up the system would reach the same conclusion.
Let us not once more roll over. A Federal judge has done the right thing. They said the administration should not roll over the will of Congress. Let us not allow them to do it. Let us make sure that we do not spend taxpayer money on a system that a Federal judge has said is outside the scope of what Congress intended.
So I urge my colleagues to support this amendment.