Ayotte Urges Secretary of Defense to Reconsider Policy Changes that Implement Portsmouth Naval Shipyard Workers

WASHINGTON, DC – October 7, 2015 – (RealEstateRama) — U.S. Senator Kelly Ayotte (R-NH) joined Senators Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), Susan Collins (R-ME), and Angus King (I-ME), as well as several other senators in a bipartisan letter to Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter regarding long-term temporary duty (TDY) expenses for shipyard workers. The letter calls on the Department to consider providing the TDY approving official with flexibility to ensure shipyard workers do not have to pay out of their pockets for meals and incidental expenses.

As a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, Ayotte – joined by Shaheen and King – successfully included report language in the annual defense bill emphasizing the importance of not discouraging “DOD personnel–including civilian workers at shipyards and depots–from volunteering for important TDY assignments.” The language continued, “…the committee expects the DOD to monitor closely the effect of this new policy to avoid unintended disincentives and ensure that those who volunteer for mission essential travel are fully supported and encouraged.”

Commenting on the letter, Senator Ayotte said, “DOD’s efforts to reduce TDY costs should start with a common sense and factual premise: Not all TDY is of equal importance to our national security and military readiness. If we are seeking to reduce TDY expenses within the Department of Defense, we should encourage and fully support TDY that is essential to our military readiness and curb or end TDY that is not. The long-term TDY of Portsmouth Naval Shipyard workers to conduct submarine maintenance, modernization, and repair is essential to our nation’s naval readiness, and those who are willing to leave their homes and families for extended periods to perform this vital work should not have to pay out of their pockets for lodging, meals, or incidental expenses. I will continue to use my position on the Senate Armed Services Committee to advocate for Portsmouth Naval Shipyard and its workers-who are a major national security asset.”

Full text of the Senators’ letter to President Obama is below:

October 5, 2015

The Honorable Ashton Carter
U.S. Department of Defense
1000 Defense Pentagon
Washington, DC 20301-1000

Dear Secretary Carter,

We write to express concern regarding the changes made by the Department of Defense (DOD) to per diem allowances for long-term temporary duty (TDY) and the unique impact of these changes on shipyard employees. While we applaud DOD’s efforts to seek cost efficiencies and understand DOD’s rationale for the reduced long-term TDY rates, the reductions may impact mission in certain circumstances. For this reason, the Senate included report language in the FY16 National Defense Authorization Act urging DOD to monitor the travel policy change to ensure employees who volunteer for mission essential travel are fully supported and encouraged. To further address this concern, we request that you consider granting greater waiver authority in circumstances when a traveler is unable to reasonably reduce costs for long-term TDY.

As you know, DOD made changes to the Joint Travel Regulations (JTR) effective November 1, 2014, that include a 25 percent cut to the per diem allowance and the lodging stipend for travel in excess of 30 days, and a 45 percent cut for travel longer than 180 days. It is our understanding that if a traveler and the commercial travel office are unable to arrange for suitable lodging at the reduced per diem rate, the full lodging rate may be authorized, but the daily rate for meals and incidental expenses (M&IE) remains at the reduced rate.

Shipyard employees often volunteer for long-term TDY assignments to conduct critical maintenance on the naval fleet at other shipyards and bases, often in high-cost areas. The efforts of highly skilled shipyard employees ensure our naval fleet is deployed in a safe, affordable and timely manner. The long-term M&IE reductions could lead to shipyard employees paying for expenses out-of-pocket, which could serve as a disincentive for workers to volunteer for long-term TDY. Shipyard employees work long shift hours, often precluding these travelers from purchasing groceries and preparing food. In high-cost areas, lodging with adequately equipped kitchenettes may not be available – increasing M&IE costs.

That is why it is important that in instances when a traveler is unable to reasonably reduce M&IE costs, the Department should consider providing the approving official with flexibility to waive the reduced M&IE daily per diem rate consistent with the exception already allowed for lodging.

Thank you for your consideration and your continued distinguished service on behalf of all of our men and women in uniform.

Sincerely,

Jeanne Shaheen
Kelly Ayotte
Susan Collins
Angus King
Patty Murray
Mazie Hirono
Maria Cantwell
Brian Schatz
Tim Kaine
Mark Warner

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