Hitting back at the 'hit list'
Sen. Barbara Mikulski, D-Md., and Rep. Tom McMillen, D-4th, introduced legislation yesterday that would temporarily prohibit the closing of military laboratories.
Six research and development facilities in Maryland are on Defense Secretary Richard Cheney's "hit list" of military bases to be closed or consolidated. That list is now being reviewed by a base-closure commission.
Members of Congress, including the entire Maryland delegation, have criticized the list, saying they made it clear they didn't want laboratories included until a specially appointed commission turns in its findings.
The Commission on the Consolidation and Conversion of Defense Research and Development Laboratories must report its evaluation and recommendations of the military lab system to Congress by Sept. 30.
Mikulski's and McMillen's legislation would order that any action on the closing or consolidation of military laboratories be pTC postponed until the lab report is issued.
In Maryland, the Pentagon has targeted the Naval Electronic Systems Engineering Center in St. Mary's County for closure and intends to scale back operations at David Taylor Research Center in Annapolis, Harry Diamond Laboratories in Adelphi, the Naval Surface Warfare Center Detachment in White Oak, Fort Detrick in Frederick and the Naval Ordnance Station in Indian Head.
"The [base closure] commission's premature report will cost jobs and jeopardize Maryland's position as a leader in defense research," Mikulski said.
"The talented and hard-working employees of these laboratories deserve a fair, thorough and responsible review."
The senator said she supports cutting wasteful spending, but she criticized the lab-closing process as "flawed."
"The DOD is closing down or consolidating valuable military laboratories before it has the information it needs to make sound decisions," she said.
Leave bank for reservists:
Federal workers may contribute annual leave to a leave bank being established for their colleagues who were called to active duty during the Persian Gulf war, Office of Personnel Management Director Constance B. Newman announced this week.
OPM is issuing interim regulations effective immediately and requesting comments until June 5 on the proposal.
The contributed annual leave is to be divided equally among all eligible returning reservists. Under the proposal, employees may not give leave to a specific individual.
OPM must establish a contribution period, which has yet to be determined, said OPM spokesman Mike Orenstein.
Agencies will be responsible for reporting to OPM the number of employees who will be eligible to draw from the bank.
Under the rule's definition of "employee," the proposal excludes employees for the District of Columbia government and the U.S. Postal Service as well as part-time workers. The act also requires the Department of Veterans Affairs to establish a similar program for health-care professionals.
Only employees of the executive agencies may contribute leave.
For the sake of simple recordkeeping, the minimum amount of annual leave a contributor may give is one hour, according to the rules in the Federal Register.
Newman said she will waive the usual 30-day delay in effective date "to give affected employees the benefit of these new provisions at the earliest practicable date."
SSA to get back pay:
Thousands of Social Security Administration workers stand to receive "sizable" back-pay awards for overtime following an arbitrator's decision in favor of the American Federation of Government Employees, the union announced yesterday.
AFGE filed two grievances under the AFGE-SSA negotiated agreement on behalf of about 13,800 SSA field office claims representatives and nearly 800 claims authorities working in payment service centers, AFGE spokeswoman Janice R. Lachance said.
The workers were denied overtime under the Fair Labor Standards Act because SSA said they were exempt as administrative employees.
But arbitrator Henry L. Segal agreed with AFGE that the workers were involved in the production, not administrative, end of the agency's business.
AFGE President John N.Sturdivant estimated that workers could expect more than $1 million in back pay. SSA and the union have 60 days to figure out the amount.
Efficiency at SSA:
One attorney adviser with SSA's Office of Hearings and Appeals may have found a way for the understaffed federal agency to save money and improve efficiency.
Steward Goldstein, a 15-year OHA veteran who works in Cleveland, wants attorney advisers to review disability cases prior to their hearings to see if the cases can be paid off without having to go to a hearing.
Under the current system, all such cases are reviewed by administrative law judges, who don't have time to look over cases in detail until just before the hearing -- which may be several weeks or months after the cases arrive in the hearing office, Goldstein said.