Leadership

Bill rolls back deep cuts to Defense travel per diems

A bipartisan group of lawmakers are attempting to undo deep cuts the Defense Department made to travel per diems in 2014, according to a new bill introduced March 2.

Reps. Derek Kilmer, D-Wash., and Walter Jones, R-N.C. introduced legislation to halt the approximately $22 million in per diem cuts.The per diem policy– implemented on Nov. 1 – dropped reimbursements to 75 percent for trips or temporary duty assignments lasting 31 to 180 days. For trips longer than 181 days the traveler gets 55 percent of the lodging and meal per diem.

The previous policy paid 100 percent of the per diem rates for any length of time.

The Defense Department believes it will save about $22 million annually without harming the traveler or the mission, according to spokesman Nathan Christensen. Many hotels offer discounted long-term rates for travelers staying a while, which helps drive down costs, he added.

But William Dougan, president of the National Federation of Federal Employees, said the per diem cuts merely shift additional costs onto DoD employees, while the agency failed to work with federal employee groups on the initial cuts.

"In recent years, Defense workers have experienced death by a thousand cuts, with pay and benefits being whittled away little by little," Dougan said. "These cuts dealt a significant blow to morale within the Department. The passage of this legislation will help rectify the problem of low morale that is already prevalent throughout the Department."

The legislation is co-sponsored by Reps. Mark Takai, D-Hawaii, Tulsi Gabbard, D-Hawaii, Juan Vargas, D-Calif., Brian Higgins, D-N.Y. Rob Bishop, R-Utah, Anne McLane Kuster, D-N.H., Gerry Connolly, D-Va., Charles Rangel, Jim McGovern, D-Mass., Pat Meehan, R-Pa., Donald Norcross, D-N.J., Chellie Pingree, D-Maine, Frank Lobiondo, R-N.J., Paul Tonko, D-N.Y., Tom Cole, R-Okla., Matt Cartwright, D-Pa., Don Beyer, D-Va., Bobby Scott, D-Va., Scott Peters, D-Calif., and Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton, D-D.C.

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