CONGRESSWOMAN ELISE STEFANIK
On Monday, December 5, 2016, the House will consider S. 795, the Whistleblower Protection for Contractors Act, under suspension of the rules. S. 795 was introduced by Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-MO) on March 18, 2015, and was referred to the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, which ordered the bill reported, with an amendment in the nature of a substitute, on February 10, 2016. The Senate passed S. 795 by unanimous consent on June 23, 2016.
S. 795 improves whistleblower rights of Federal contractors working on Federal contracts, grants and other programs. Specifically, the bill puts whistleblower protections related to individuals working on Federal civilian contracts and grants on par with those already existing related to individuals working on Federal defense contacts and grants. The bill makes the temporary civilian whistleblowing programs permanent and extends protections to subgrantees. In addition, protections are extended to personal services contractors working on both defense and civilian grant programs.
Section 1553 of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (ARRA) established whistleblower protections for all recipients of stimulus funds, including all state and local government employees and all contractors. According to the Senate Committee, whistleblower complaints resulted in the recovery of approximately $1.85 million in stimulus funds.
Roughly half of the $3.8 trillion federal budget is spent on prime awards to contractors, grantees, states, and localities. And while the federal workforce has consistently stayed around 2 million individuals since 1999, the size of the contractor workforce has increased radically from an estimated 4.4 million to 7.6 million in 2005. According to testimony before the Committee, with no whistleblower protections contractors make more money by not doing a job right the first time and getting paid more to fix it.
Similar language was introduced in the 113th Congress, and language was included in the National Defense Authorization for Fiscal Year 2013 that established a four-year pilot program to extend whistleblower protections to contractors and grantees, but excluded the intelligence community. The pilot expires in 2017.
According to the bill’s sponsor, “Even though we have whistleblower protections in place for government employees, there are thousands of contractors in the federal government workforce who still aren’t afforded those same basic protections, and thousands more who are going to see their protections disappear if we don’t make them permanent before the end of the year. Whistleblower are our first line of defense against waste and misconduct—and our legislation simply extends those protections to all whistleblowers in contracting forces who are working side-by-side each day with government employees, but without the same protections—and I’m looking forward to working with my colleagues in the House to get this commonsense bill across the finish line.”
The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) estimates that the cost to implement S. 795 would depend on the number of whistleblower claims made by nonfederal employees. Evidence from the pilot program that currently protects non-federal employees from such discrimination suggests that the number of claims has totaled less than 20 for each of the 26 major federal agencies. CBO estimates each claim to cost $3,000 to investigate, or about $5 million over the 2017-2021 period. Finally, CBO estimates enacting S. 795 would not affect revenues, and would not increase net direct spending or on-budget deficits in any of the four consecutive 10-year periods beginning in 2027.
For questions or further information please contact Jake Vreeburg with the House Republican Policy Committee by email or at 6-1828.