Washington, DC – Governmental Affairs Committee Ranking Member Fred Thompson (R-TN) joined Senators Daniel Akaka (D-HI) and Richard Durbin (D-IL) today in introducing two bills detailing a comprehensive strategy to deal with both short and long-term deficiencies in the natural security workforce. The Homeland Security Federal Workforce Act and the Homeland Security Education Act seek to address specific problems in the federal government?s ability to recruit and retain national security professionals.
“We have to make sure federal agencies have the talent on hand to do the thousand daily tasks that don?t make the news but make us safer each and every day,” said Senator Thompson. “These bills help the federal government get ? and keep ? that talent.”
The Homeland Security Federal Workforce Act requires a strategic plan that assesses the status of the federal government’s national security workforce and requires the integration of performance plans for the national security workforce into plans required by the Government Performance and Results Act. In addition, the bill provides loan forgiveness, fellowships and employee exchange programs in support of the federal national security workforce. The Homeland Security Education Act strengthens federal support of educational programs — especially in math, science, and certain languages — deemed important to the national security workforce.
The bills are the product of many of the recommendations made by the Hart / Rudman Commission on National Security in the 21st Century released earlier this year. The Commission said in its most recent report, “The maintenance of American power in the world depends on the quality of U.S. government personnel, civil and military, at all levels. We must take immediate action in the personnel area to ensure that the United States can meet future challenges.
Senator Thompson added, “Employing the best possible federal workforce is a matter of national security. The federal government?s workforce crisis is real and will remain unless we begin to think strategically about what our needs are and then match our most skilled people with opportunities for development and incentives to stay.”
Experts have warned that the federal government faces immense challenges with its workforce, specifically citing the length of the hiring process, inability to retain employees, and an unprecedented increase in the percentage of retirements.
Summaries of the two bills are attached.
“Homeland Security Federal Workforce Act”
Title I: Expands the loan forgiveness program for federal employees in areas of national security. Allows Departments of Defense, State, Energy, and Justice as well as the Central Intelligence Agency, Federal Emergency Management Agency, and the National Security Agency to repay up to $10,000 per year (up to a lifetime limit of $80,000) for individuals who have educational debt. In exchange, they enter into employment agreements for at least 3 years.
Title II: Creates fellowships for graduate students to enter federal service at national security-type agencies. The same agencies outlined in Title I above could offer fellowships to graduate students of mathematics, science, engineering, or a foreign language; in return for this assistance, recipients would agree to work for the sponsoring agency for a period of at least 3 years. There is a twenty percent set-aside of these fellowships for current federal employees.
Title III: Establishes the National Security Service Corps, which allows federal national security agencies to conduct exchange programs for mid-level employees. The Corps is envisioned to be a professionally rewarding opportunity that also has clear benefits for parent agencies. The National Security Service Board, consisting of representatives of the member agencies as well as the Office of Personnel Management, will outline the specifics of the Corps.
Title IV: Requires agencies to address human capital needs, particularly those that relate to national security, in their strategic plans, performance plans, and performance reports.
“Homeland Security Education Act”
Title I: Subsidizes loan interest for persons who obtain undergraduate degrees in mathematics, science, or a foreign language. As long as they remain in repayment status and not in default, the Federal Government assumes the interest payments on their educational loans.
Title II: Directs the National Science Foundation to provide grants to elementary and secondary schools to build or expand their math and science curricula and to study the coordination of such efforts with those of the Department of Education. The Title also encourages private sector involvement through the donation of technology tools and establishment of internship and mentoring opportunities for math and science students.
Title III: Promotes foreign language education by developing grant programs for all educational levels (elementary school through university). University level programs include math and science studies that are taught in conjunction with, or are conducted entirely in, a foreign language. The bill also authorizes a National Flagship Language Initiative, which awards grants to universities producing graduates in critical language areas.