House Passes Defense Authorization with Kilmer-backed Policies
Bill raises troop pay, overturns DOD’s unfair per diem policy, extends authorization of overtime for shipyard workers in Japan, focuses on the importance of our nation’s shipyards, and takes the first step for cyber national guard
WASHINGTON, DC-- Today, Representative Derek Kilmer (D-WA) voted in favor of the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2019 (NDAA). The legislation includes measures Kilmer championed that extend the authorization for overtime payments to shipyard workers in Japan through 2019 and eliminate a policy enacted by the Department of Defense (DOD) that passed the burden of covering travel costs while on assignment to individual employees rather than the department or service.
“If you serve the country, Congress should invest in you and have your back. In an unpredictable world, a strong, well-maintained Navy, and a well-trained, well-equipped, and fairly-paid fighting force helps keep the peace,” Kilmer said. “This bill makes progress in that regard. Over the long haul, though, Congress needs to fix the budget process to provide more stability and predictability.”
The NDAA sets funding levels, expenditures, and other authorizations for the DOD. The final bill that passed the House raises troop pay by 2.6% — the largest increase in nine years. The bill also includes almost $90 million in funding for the construction of the Pier and Maintenance Facility at Naval Base Kitsap. This investment will help the Navy most effectively continue its national security mission, and ensure this important military construction project meets environmental and safety standards.
Shipyard Worker Overtime
Kilmer has led the push for the authorization of overtime payments for shipyard workers who conduct maintenance on the U.S. aircraft carrier stationed in Japan. The bill includes a measure to extend overtime payments to civilian shipyard workers through September 30, 2021.
This is the latest in a series of Kilmer-led efforts to secure overtime since a long-term provision guaranteeing it expired in September 2014.
“The shipyard workers we send overseas work long hours away from their families to make sure the Navy completes its vital mission in the Pacific. They’re not on vacation, and they ought to be paid for their overtime.” Kilmer said.
Per Diem Fix
In 2014, the DOD cut per diem rates for federal employees and members of the military who travel longer than 30 days for work. The cuts meant workers on extended travel would be paid between 25 percent and 45 percent less than under the old policy, depending on how long they’re working away from home.
Kilmer introduced a bipartisan bill in March 2015 to reverse those cuts. Since that time, he’s successfully worked with a bipartisan group of lawmakers to make sure this provision has been included in the House NDAA for each Fiscal Year, including 2019. He is continuing to fight for a permanent restoration of the DOD’s long-term per diem rates.
“Congress needs to get spending under control. But nickel-and-diming federal workers and asking them to foot the bill when they’re on work travel isn’t how to do it,” Kilmer said.
The NDAA includes a study on the viability of establishing Cyber Civil Support Teams within the National Guard to help every state protect our nation’s voting machines and other critical state- and locally-controlled infrastructure like the power grid.
The study text comes from Kilmer’s Major General Tim Lowenberg National Guard Cyber Defenders Act.
“Congress’ inclusion of this study shows leaders in Washington, DC know our nation’s voting machines and other critical infrastructure are vulnerable to cyberattack,” Kilmer said. “But, states need help now. We need more than just a study. We need to move forward. I urge the Senate to pass the full bill so states can start standing up cyber guard teams.”
Kilmer’s bill was introduced in the Senate this week by Sens. Cantwell (D-WA) and Manchin (D-WV).
EA-18G Growler Noise Reduction Work
Over the past several years, Kilmer has pushed the DOD to fund efforts to reduce the noise of the Navy’s EA-18G Growler through his work on the Appropriations Committee. This year, he worked with Rep. Rick Larsen (D-WA), a member of the House Armed Services Committee, to build on those efforts by authorizing the Navy to develop new technologies to reduce Growler noise. Kilmer intends to continue working with the Navy to ensure that the Navy remains a good neighbor to folks on the Olympic Peninsula and the surrounding communities.
“This is a great step forward that I hope leads to an eventual solution that works for the community and the Navy.” Kilmer said.
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