AFGE denounces budget targets in GOP defense bill

Pentagon (DoD photo by Master Sgt. Ken Hammond, U.S. Air Force) 

The Defense Department's "night court" process could have negative workforce implications despite its touted success and popularity in finding extra money,  according to a union that represents more than 300,000 defense workers.

The American Federation of Government Employees issued a letter April 16 to Congress opposing significant provisions in the recently proposed Expanding Acquisition Reform Act, which seeks to formalize DOD's internal reform efforts, including the zero-budgeting approach often called night court.

"Most enduring efficiencies are not effectuated through management diktats in so-called 'Night Courts' but involve the hard work of improving business processes and adopting technological improvements to those processes, usually generated by the people with expertise and knowledge of the processes," wrote Alethea Predeoux, AFGE's legislative director.

AFGE said the bill's requirement to submit DOD's cost savings with the presidential budget request created an undue burden on employees, a requirement that was likely fashioned after the Defense Department announced a $5.7 billion in savings alongside its 2021 budget earlier this year.

Predeoux called the savings targets arbitrary and said that they would have the effect of shifting work from government employees to contractors.

"The civilian workforce continues to bear the brunt of programmatic reviews because of the insulation of service contracts requirements from competition and validation in the Program Objective Memorandum process."

The union said that it supports provisions that try to eliminate waste and inefficiencies as long savings aren't predetermined.

The letter, which was sent to House Armed Services Committee Reps. Adam Smith (D-Wash.) and Mac Thornberry (R-Texas), the chairman and ranking member respectively, also criticized a requirement to find 25% cost savings across DOD's Fourth Estate agencies enshrined in the 2020 defense policy bill.

When first introducing the bill April 2, Thornberry said it was important for DOD to look at system and platform sustainment costs and "pay closer attention to the vulnerabilities in the industrial base" with proper congressional oversight. Part of that oversight means establishing new policies and requirements when it comes to implementing night court reforms across the Pentagon and military services. Failure to do so could result in funding restrictions, according to the bill.

FCW requested comment from HASC leadership and will update this story to reflect any responses.

About the Author

Lauren C. Williams is senior editor for FCW and Defense Systems, covering defense and cybersecurity.

Prior to joining FCW, Williams was the tech reporter for ThinkProgress, where she covered everything from internet culture to national security issues. In past positions, Williams covered health care, politics and crime for various publications, including The Seattle Times.

Williams graduated with a master's in journalism from the University of Maryland, College Park and a bachelor's in dietetics from the University of Delaware. She can be contacted at [email protected], or follow her on Twitter @lalaurenista.

Click here for previous articles by Wiliams.


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