From acquisition to workforce, trio of new bills target federal community

Yet another House member has thrown his hat into the legislative arena over the issue of federal administrative leave.

As part of of his “Shrink our Spending Initiative” series of bills, Rep. Matt Salmon (R-Ariz.) introduced legislation on April 14 that would prohibit agencies from placing federal employees accused of misconduct or poor performance on administrative leave for any longer than 30 days.

Salmon’s bill reflects a growing sentiment in both the House and Senate to address the legal limbo  federal employees face when on administrative leave. The two-page bill echoes many of the pieces of legislation that proceeded it, such as a report sent by Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee in December that recommended the government formally authorize and define “administrative leave.”

The Salmon bill would allow agency heads to grant 30-day extensions of administrative leave cases, but would mandate a written report to Congress justifying the extension.

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An administrative leave bill authored by Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah), chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, has progressed further than most. The bill requires agencies to return employees to paid duty status after 14 days of administrative leave. The bill passed a committee markup hearing on March 1, and will eventually receive a House vote.

“As of today, ‘administrative leave’ is not defined in federal law and, as a consequence, many government workers accused of misconduct collect millions of dollars from the federal government in pay when they are removed from service until the conclusion of an investigation,” Salmon said in introducing his bill.

The Government Accountability Office in October 2014 found that more than 4,000 federal employees were on administrative leave for longer than three months. The report also found that 250 employees were on paid leave for longer than a year, at the cost of $31 million to the government.

Federal offices amendment gives extra consideration to public services

The management and consolidation of federal real property been on the GAO’s “high risk” list every year since 2003. But as Congress works to reduce the office footprint of the federal government, one House member asks that agencies consider the public before moving locations.

At a House Oversight and Government Affairs Committee markup hearing on April 14, Rep. Lujan Grisham (D-N.M.) added an amendment to the Federal Assets Sale and Transfer Act, which would require agencies to consider citizens’ access to relocated offices. Both the bill and Grisham’s amendment were passed by the committee.

Grisham told the committee the amendment stemmed from her experience with a Social Security office building in her district. The SSA office, she said, moved to a downtown Albuquerque location without much street parking and no designated handicap parking.

“This amendment ensures that the Public Buildings Reform Board considers the public access to agency services when it develops recommendations to the Office of Management and Budget on the best way to manage underutilized or unused federal property,” Grisham told the committee. “I fully support the intent of the underlying bill, but it is important to maintain public access to agency services as decisions are being made to consolidate, co-locate, lease, reconfigure or redevelop federal property.”

Acquisition bill clarifies when “lowest price, technically acceptable” is best value

Lawmakers in both the House and Senate have introduced legislation to help the Defense acquisition community decide when “lowest price, technically acceptable” is the best-value option, and when it may be simply cutting corners.

Sens. Mark Warner (D-Va.) and Mike Rounds (R-S.D.) introduced legislation on Thursday that would ensure that the Defense Department seek the best long-term value for taxpayers during the procurement process for IT and engineering services. The bill would clarify the criteria by which a proposal is considered LPTA.

“The current LPTA focus on price makes sense when the Pentagon is purchasing belts, bolts, and  ballpoint pens, yet it provides no incentive for DoD to seek-out the most innovative IT and engineering solutions, especially important as we are working to encourage more innovation in cybersecurity. In many ways, LPTA discourages participation by companies investing in cutting-edge capabilities,” Warner said. 

A companion bill was introduced in the House by Reps. Don Beyer (D-Va.) and Rob Wittman (R-Va.).

“This bill will help make sure that DOD is using LPTA in an appropriate manner while avoiding its use in determining source selection for complex, innovative technology and engineering services, where the least expensive option is often not the best long-term value. This is in the best interests of our war fighters and our taxpayers,” Rounds said.

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