WASHINGTON, DC – Today, U.S. Senator Cory Booker (D-NJ) voiced serious concerns over reports that more than 400 National Guard Bureau (NGB) employees, including several in New Jersey, suffered massive pay cuts under a new contract awarded by NGB in March. In a letter to General Joseph L. Lenygel, Sen. Booker cited the severe hardship placed on families as a result of the new contract and requested information pertaining to the wage cuts.
“Amid growing trends across the private sector of cutting costs on the back of employees, the Federal Government should value and empower American workers with a living wage,” Booker wrote in a letter to General Lenygel. “While we should always look for opportunities to more efficiently and effectively serve the American people, savings should never come at the expense of veterans and their families.”
Workers impacted by the wage cuts are part of the NGB Family Assistance Center, which helps service members and their families meet the challenges of military service before, during and after deployment. This year, NGB made the decision to open competition for the 2017 task order and awarded a contract to a new vendor in March. Under the contract, the new vendor was able to significantly underbid its competitors by imposing wage cuts of 25 to 50 percent on the incumbent workforce.
The full text of the letter is as follows:
July 7, 2017
General Joseph L. Lenygel, USA
National Guard Bureau
111 S. George Mason Drive
Arlington, VA 22204
Dear General Lengyel,
I am deeply concerned by reports that over 400 Family Assistance Center employees working for the National Guard Bureau (NGB) have suffered a massive pay cut under the new contract awarded by the Bureau in March of this year, leading to severe hardship, numerous resignations, and jeopardizing the delivery of vital services to our nation’s military community.
The National Guard’s Family Assistance Centers play a key role in ensuring that our service members and veterans, and their families -- from all branches -- have access to the financial, medical, and behavioral support they need to meet the challenges of military service and reintegration into civilian lives. It is imperative that the people who provide these services are paid at a level that reflects the importance of this role, and the skills and experience necessary to perform it.
In Fiscal Year 2015, Family Assistance Centers addressed more than 2.7 million inquiries, referral requests, and outreach calls at 396 locations. Every day in New Jersey and across the country, Family Assistance staff help service members and their families before, during, and after deployment. FAC Specialists, overseen by Coordinators, connect families with legal, medical, financial, and psychological assistance. When a service member or veteran is in crisis, FAC staff are the first responders.
Prior to the Request for Proposals (RFP) for the Family Assistance Centers task order issued in December 2016, the NGB required that FAC Specialists be paid no less than the rates established by General Schedule 7 Scale (in 2016 equivalent to $19.18 to $24.84 per hour) , and Coordinators no less than GS 9. But in the December 2016 RFP, the NGB informed bidders that they could pay both Specialists and Coordinators at no more than the minimum rates set by the Service Contract Act, without specifying which occupational classification was to be used, and without requesting the issuance of a wage determination from the Department of Labor appropriate to their skills and duties.
As a result of this departure from precedent, the contract was awarded to a new vendor, which was able to significantly underbid its competitors by imposing wage cuts of 25 to 50 percent on the incumbent workforce. In most localities, both Specialists and Coordinators are now making $10 to $16 per hour. Some Specialists are now being paid at as little as $10.20 per hour, less than the rate payable under the SCA to contract workers in many entry-level, blue-collar occupations.
About one-quarter of the incumbent workforce refused to accept employment with the incoming contractor on these terms, while dozens of others are actively seeking alternative employment. I understand that some remaining employees—many of whom are veterans themselves—have been forced to get second jobs or apply for public assistance programs to meet their most basic needs.
Amid growing trends across the private sector of cutting costs on the back of employees, the Federal Government should value and empower American workers with a living wage. While we should always look for opportunities to more efficiently and effectively serve the American people, savings should never come at the expense of veterans and their families.
I therefore ask that you provide the following information regarding the current Family Assistance Center Contract:
- Why did the NGB decide to open competition for the 2017 task order instead of renewing the incumbent’s contract, as it had done the previous 5 years? Why was this decision made even though the competition process led to a one month hiatus in service delivery as the incumbent’s contract expired before the NGB was able to process award of the new task order?
- Why did the NGB fail either to specify that Specialists and Coordinators were to be paid no less than the GS rates required under the former contract (using its authority to require pay rates higher than the minima set by the SCA where reasonably necessary to ensure contract performance), or to request issuance of an appropriate wage determination for these workers by the Department of Labor reflective of their skills, duties, and federal pay equivalencies? Is NGB taking steps to ensure that that Specialist and Coordinator pay is returned to its former levels before further losses of skilled personnel occur? Has NGB considered using its authority to immediately raise pay by making an equitable adjustment to the contract? If not, why not?
- What is NGB doing to ensure that the new contractor is meeting its performance benchmarks under the new contract, including the requirement that it attain 75 percent performance (not simply staffing levels) within each state within 60 days of assuming the contract; and what feedback has NGB received from the user community?
Thank you for your attention to this important issue. We all share a commitment to serving our soldiers, veterans, and military families. I look forward to working with you to ensure frontline staff at Family Assistance Centers are properly valued and paid a living wage for their service.
Cory A. Booker
United States Senator
 2017 National Guard Bureau Posture Statement. Available online at: http://www.nationalguard.mil/portals/31/Documents/PostureStatements/2017-National-Guard-Bureau-Posture-Statement.pdf
2 Workers who really do ‘support our troops’ are getting their wages slashed. Available online at: https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/workers-who-really-do-support-our-troops-are-getting-their-wages-slashed/2017/04/24/1318dee4-2922-11e7-b605-33413c691853_story.html?utm_term=.ccae8b035198
3 Workers who really do ‘support our troops’ are getting their wages slashed. Available online at: https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/workers-who-really-do-support-our-troops-are-getting-their-wages-slashed/2017/04/24/1318dee4-2922-11e7-b605-33413c691853_story.html?utm_term=.ccae8b035198
4 Workers who really do ‘support our troops’ are getting their wages slashed. Available online at: https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/workers-who-really-do-support-our-troops-are-getting-their-wages-slashed/2017/04/24/1318dee4-2922-11e7-b605-33413c691853_story.html?utm_term=.ccae8b035198