October 28, 2009

Statement of NTEU President Colleen M. Kelley Upon President Signing Fiscal 2010 DoD Authorization Bill
President Obamaís signature on the fiscal 2010 Defense Authorization bill enacts into law a number of important provisions impacting the federal workforce in positive ways. Each one has been a goal NTEU set out to reach on behalf of federal employees, and which we worked over some period of time to achieve. Further, while each of these provisions is important in its own right, taken together they are a particularly welcome development for our nationís dedicated federal employees.

The legislation includes language giving those covered under the Federal Employees Retirement System (FERS) the right to count unused sick leave toward their retirement calculation. This will help improve their financial security, and addresses a significant issue of fairness, bringing the FERS system in line with the Civil Service Retirement System (CSRS) on this key matter.

Along with that important step, the Authorization Bill repeals authority for the National Security Personnel System (NSPS) and requires the transition of all Defense Department employees placed under it back into existing personnel systems. NTEU led the fight against regressive personnel systems by turning back with three federal court victories an effort by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to impose such a system on its employees, and then by working with Congress to ensure that no appropriated funds can be used by DHS implement the system. Without NTEUís efforts, regressive personnel rules likely would have spread throughout the federal workplace.

The measure takes a number of other important steps for federal workers and their agencies, as well. It corrects an anomaly in the CSRS which penalizes federal employees who choose part-time work toward the end of their career by not calculating their pensions correctly, thus effectively prematurely depriving their agencies of the skill and expertise of these employees. It also allow FERS employees who return to federal service to redeposit their annuities and receive credit for years of service; and converts the non-foreign cost-of-living adjustment system to a locality pay system over several years, resulting in improved retirement benefits for federal employees in outlying areas.

The fiscal 2010 Defense Authorization Bill sends an unmistakable and strongly-positive message to the federal workforce about the importance of their continuing contributions to our nation.