Legislative Newsletter Update 9 March 2009 


Legislative News is AUSA Government Affairs Directorate's 
weekly electronic newsletter, and is published 
every Monday when Congress is in session. 


In this issue:

  • Government Contracting Practices To Undergo Review
  • Encouraging Words on Healthcare/ Military Pay
  • Update on Homeowner's Assistance Program


    Government Contracting Practices To Undergo Review

    President Obama had directed the Office of Management and Budget to review government acquisition and contracting procedures including the outsourcing of work historically performed by government employees.  He said in an announcement last week that he wants to add more competition and accountability to an often overwhelmed procurement system.

    Joined by a bipartisan group of lawmakers, including Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., the President said, "We will stop outsourcing services that should be performed by the government," noting that annual spending on contracts had doubled to more than $500 billion over the past eight years.

    His recently-released fiscal 2010 budget blueprint addressed the acquisition and contracting process.  “The administration will set realistic requirements and stick to them and incorporate ‘best practices’ by not allowing programs to proceed from one stage of the acquisition cycle to the next until they have achieved the maturity to clearly lower the risk of cost growth and schedule slippage.”

    Obama gave his budget director, Peter Orszag, until the end of September to issue new federal guidelines governing some of the most important areas of public procurement and contracting practices.  The review would clarify the rules for awarding contracts without competitive bidding.  It also would set criteria for when private companies should be hired to perform public services and assess agencies' ability to manage contracts after years in which the federal workforce responsible for such oversight has been shrinking.

    Singling out the Defense Department, Obama said, "The days of giving defense contractors a blank check are over.  None of this will be easy.  We'll have to end old ways of doing business.  We'll have to take on entrenched special interests.  We'll have to break bad habits that have built up over many years.  But we can't keep spending good money after bad.'”  Defense spending in particular, he said, is riddled with "lack of oversight... influence peddling and indefensible no-bid contracts that have cost American taxpayers billions of dollars.''

    McCain and Sen. Carl M. Levin, D-Mich., will be managing contracting reform legislation, Obama said, and William J. Lynn III, a former Raytheon lobbyist who is now deputy defense secretary, will be responsible for procurement reform.

    Additionally, the House Armed Services Committee has formed a bi-partisan panel that will review and try to reform the Defense Department's acquisition process. 

    Rep. John McHugh, R-N.Y., the Committee's ranking member said, "Our objective is to come up with some suggestions that we could work on together on both sides of the aisle, and hopefully with the Senate to affect some real reform."

    Encouraging Words on Healthcare/ Military Pay

    We heard encouraging words from both authorizers and appropriators last week on health care and pay issues for military personnel. 

    Both panels agreed that they would probably increase the Obama Administration’s proposed 2.9 percent pay raise for military personnel to 3.9 percent.  House Armed Services Committee Chairman Rep. Ike Skelton, D-Mo., said, “The committee has a long track record of increasing military pay above and beyond the amount requested by the president.  There is no reason to think this year’s defense bill would be any different. 

    Also, an influential lawmaker announced that he will prevent the Defense Department from raising TRICARE fees and co-payments. Rep. John Murtha, D-Pa., Chairman of the House Appropriations Defense Subcommittee said, “I told the president, “Don’t send it over; we’re not going to do it.’”  Murtha said that the administration responded by saying it was “under consideration.”  He added that, “They do this stuff because they want to be able to say that the budget is lower.  It just means that we make the decision instead of them.”  AUSA strongly supports that decision! 

    Update on Homeowner's Assistance Program

    Additional funding for a program to help military personnel forced to sell their homes in the midst of the current real estate crisis was included in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act recently signed into law.  The $555 million for the Department of Defense Homeowner’s Assistance Program (HAP) will allow the Defense Secretary to acquire title to a military person's property or reimburse the individual for losses after a private sale or foreclosure.

    A message on the HAP’s website states, “The President signed the American Economic Recovery Act which included expansion of the HAP authority.  HAP is a Department of Defense (DoD) program, and they will establish policy guidance on applicant processing and benefits.  Until that time, potential applicants may submit applications to appropriate HAP districts; however, no action will be taken on the applications until any change to the HAP authority has been enacted and DOD guidance is received.”

    There are three HAP field offices.  To find out which one services your area, visit their website at http://hap.usace.army.mil/Homepage.asp