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National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2014 - Extension of Remarks

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC

The House in Committee of the Whole House on the state of the Union had under consideration the bill (H.R. 1960) to authorize appropriations for fiscal year 2014 for military activities of the Department of Defense and for military construction, to prescribe military personnel strengths for such fiscal year, and for other purposes:

Mr. O'ROURKE. Mr. Chair, the Federal Government is facing some of the most complex challenges in our Nation's history and dealing with serious budget constraints. In order to do more with less, it is critical that we have a first class Federal workforce. The government must make the proper investments in its employees and take the steps necessary to recruit, retain, and develop its talent.

The media often focuses on what goes wrong in government, but today I want to take a moment to recognize the important work of the more than 800,000 Department of Defense of Defense (DoD) civil servants who provide essential services to help keep our country safe. DoD civilians are partners in our national defense and integral to the success of DoD military operations.

I represent Fort Bliss in El Paso, Texas and to echo the words of Former Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta when he visited the installation, ``let me be clear--Fort Bliss is the premier post in America.'' The critical role this post plays in our national defense is supported by more than 11,000 full-time civilian employees. We live in a world where the threats to our freedoms are diverse and we must ensure that our civilian workforce is up to the task of protecting the American people. To succeed in carrying out the complex tasks of the Department, Congress must enable all these employees to excel in their jobs. We must compensate them commensurate with their responsibilities; provide them with a quality of work life that fosters long-term growth; and work to ensure that labor-management relationships remain strong.

This year Congress debated multiple amendments to the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2014 that aimed to weaken the civilian workforce at DoD. These amendments would greatly expand the A-76 process and direct the Department to contract out any function not considered to be ``inherently governmental''--regardless of policy, risk, or cost to DoD. The Congress outlawed the use of the A-76 process during the Bush Administration after the finding by DoD Inspector General that it was biased against federal employees, and by the Government Accountability Office that the costs of associated with the process often exceeded estimated savings. Additionally, in testimony before the Senate Defense Appropriations Subcommittee, DoD Comptroller Robert Hale acknowledged that contractors are twice as expensive as civilian employees stating that ``if you're going to have a job over a long period of time ..... it's probably cheaper to have a civilian government employee to do it.'' For these reasons, I voted against these amendments.

As the Nation's largest employer, I believe that the federal government has a responsibility to lead by example to be a model employer. This is especially true for the Department of Defense. Since being elected to Congress, I have met and worked with many civilian employees at DoD and am inspired by their dedication. Our military and country are stronger because of them, and I will continue to support efforts that strengthen our federal workforce.

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