Lawmakers get tough on defense contractors over injuries

House bill would prohibit incentive fees if a government employee is seriously hurt

House lawmakers want to ensure that contractors pay dearly if they put government employees in harm's way.

Under the House version of the fiscal 2010 National Defense Authorization Act (H.R. 2647), which recently passed in a vote of the full House, the Defense Department would be prohibited from awarding incentive fees to contractors if a government employee suffers grievous physical injury or dies as a result of gross negligence on the part of a company.

In addition, if a subcontractor is at fault, both the prime and subcontractors would lose their fees. DOD officials would also need to weigh whether the companies at fault should be debarred from contracting with the government, the bill states.

The prohibition would apply after a criminal conviction or a civil proceeding finds that the injury was the contractor’s fault, according to the bill.

The House passed the defense authorization bill June 25 by a vote of 389-22.

The Senate Armed Services Committee approved its version of the defense authorization legislation (S. 1390) the same day, but it doesn’t include a similar provision. The Senate has yet to consider the bill.

The Senate, meanwhile, is concerned about the knowledge base of the defense acquisition workforce.

As the department rebuilds its workforce, it needs to capture the knowledge of its most experienced acquisition professionals and share that with up-and-coming employees.

The committee asks the department to provide a report with its fiscal 2011 budget request that outlines how "knowledge management and decision support systems could contribute to implementing DOD’s human capital plan and improving the effectiveness of the acquisition workforce."

Managing that knowledge helps an organization gain a competitive advantage and work more innovatively, the committee wrote in its report accompanying S. 1390. It helps organizations share what employees have learned and retain important insights as employees leave, the committee wrote.

DOD’s challenge of building a seasoned workforce “places a premium on doing business as intelligently as we can and relying on available technologies to enable personnel to operate as efficiently and effectively as possible, and to train new personnel in the operations of the DOD acquisition system,” the committee states in its report.

The committee unanimously approved S. 1390 June 25. The full Senate has yet to consider the bill.

About the Author

Matthew Weigelt is a freelance journalist who writes about acquisition and procurement.

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