December 5, 2016 - Issue: Vol. 162, No. 174 — Daily Edition114th Congress (2015 - 2016) - 2nd Session
ENHANCING WHISTLEBLOWER PROTECTION FOR CONTRACTOR AND GRANTEE EMPLOYEES; Congressional Record Vol. 162, No. 174
(House of Representatives - December 05, 2016)
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[Pages H7147-H7149] From the Congressional Record Online through the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov] ENHANCING WHISTLEBLOWER PROTECTION FOR CONTRACTOR AND GRANTEE EMPLOYEES Mr. CHAFFETZ. Mr. Speaker, I move to suspend the rules and pass the bill (S. 795) to enhance whistleblower protection for contractor and grantee employees. The Clerk read the title of the bill. The text of the bill is as follows: S. 795 Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled, SECTION 1. ENHANCEMENT OF WHISTLEBLOWER PROTECTION FOR CONTRACTOR AND GRANTEE EMPLOYEES. (a) Protection for Employees of Grantees and Subgrantees.-- (1) Defense grants.--Section 2409(a)(1) of title 10, United States Code, is amended by inserting ``or personal services contractor'' after ``subgrantee''. (2) Civilian grants.--Section 4712(a)(1) of title 41, United States Code, is amended by striking ``or grantee'' and inserting ``grantee, or subgrantee or personal services contractor''. (3) Permanent extension of pilot program for enhancement of contractor protection from reprisal for disclosure of certain information.-- (A) In general.--Section 4712 of title 41, United States Code, is amended-- (i) in the section heading by striking ``Pilot program for enhancement'' and inserting ``Enhancement''; and (ii) by striking subsection (i). (B) Clerical amendment.--The table of sections at the beginning of chapter 47 of title 41, United States Code, is amended by striking the item relating to section 4712 and inserting the following new item: ``4712. Enhancement of contractor protection from reprisal for disclosure of certain information.''. (b) Prohibition on Reimbursement for Legal Fees Accrued in Defense Against Reprisal Claims.-- (1) Defense contracts.--Section 2324(k) of title 10, United States Code, is amended-- (A) by inserting ``or subcontractor, or personal services contractor'' after ``contractor'' each place it appears; (B) by inserting ``, subcontract, or personal services contract'' after ``contract'' each place it appears; and (C) in paragraph (1), by inserting ``or to any other activity described in subparagraphs (A) through (C) of section 2409(a)(1) of this title'' after ``statute or regulation''. (2) Civilian contracts.-- (A) In general.--Section 4310 of title 41, United States Code, is amended-- (i) by inserting ``, subcontractor, or personal services contractor'' after ``contractor'' each place it appears; (ii) by inserting ``, subcontract, or personal services contract'' after ``contract'' each place it appears; and (iii) in subsection (b)(1), by inserting ``or to any other activity described in section 4712(a)(1) of this title'' after ``statute or regulation''. (B) Conforming amendment.--Section 4304(a)(15) of title 41, United States Code, is amended by inserting ``or subcontractor, or personal service contractor'' after ``contractor''. (c) Inclusion of Contract Clause in Contracts Awarded Before Effective Date.--At the time of any major modification to a contract that was awarded before the date of the enactment of this Act, the head of the contracting agency shall make best efforts to include in the contract a contract clause providing for the applicability of the amendments made by this section and section 827 of the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2013 (Public Law 112-239; 126 Stat. 1833). The SPEAKER pro tempore. Pursuant to the rule, the gentleman from Utah (Mr. Chaffetz) and the gentleman from Maryland (Mr. Cummings) each will control 20 minutes. The Chair recognizes the gentleman from Utah. General Leave Mr. CHAFFETZ. Mr. Speaker, I ask unanimous consent that all Members may have 5 legislative days in which to revise and extend their remarks and include extraneous materials on the bill under consideration. The SPEAKER pro tempore. Is there objection to the request of the gentleman from Utah? There was no objection. Mr. CHAFFETZ. I yield myself such time as I may consume. Mr. Speaker, I rise today in support of this bill, S. 795, a bill to enhance whistleblower protection for contractor and grantee employees. It is a bill with good bipartisan support in both Chambers of Congress. I really do applaud and thank, in particular, the gentleman from Maryland (Mr. Cummings), the ranking member on our committee, who has helped champion this and point this out and lead our efforts in the House on this. In the House, the Committee on Oversight and Government Reform considered an identical bill, the Whistleblower Protections for Contractors Act, introduced by Ranking Member Cummings and myself, and the committee reported this legislation by unanimous consent. In the Senate, it has been Senators McCaskill and Ron Johnson who have worked arm in arm on this and are also very supportive of it. Today we bring up the Senate version of this bill to expedite its approval to get this bill to the President's desk. As you know, Mr. Speaker, whistleblowers are invaluable to the oversight work of Congress. We rely on people who are on the front lines seeing things as they truly are to provide information and blow the whistle when they see something going awry. They are one of our best sources of information about waste, fraud, and abuse within the Federal Government. As an institution, we should try to do everything we can to encourage them to come and speak with us, and when they do, to make sure that they have the proper and adequate protections. That is exactly what this bill does, by recognizing that not all whistleblowers are Federal employees. We have robust Federal recognition and whistleblower protection for Federal employees, and we believe that contractors and others should have that as well. It makes permanent a successful pilot program that extended whistleblower protections to civilian contractor and grantee employees. It also ensures whistleblower protections are extended to subgrantees and personal services contractors for both defense and civilian contractors. It is important because the Federal Government [[Page H7148]] spends half a trillion dollars a year on grants and contracts. Think about that; half a trillion dollars is going out the door. There is always somebody doing something stupid somewhere; so to have this protection for a whistleblower as a contractor, for instance, just seems wise and prudent. In overseeing how these funds are spent, the best source for rooting out waste is from grantees, subgrantees, contractors, and subcontractors. One loophole this bill closes is that personal services contractors were not protected in the past. These contractors can be just as valuable in identifying the waste and fraud we are committed to preventing in the first place. It only makes sense to offer those personal services contractors the same protections we give other contractors. With this bill, we are sending a strong message to both whistleblowers and their employers. We are serious about stopping waste, fraud, and abuse, and we are serious about protecting those who bring that information forward. Every dollar of wasted funds comes from the pocket of the same hardworking men and women who elected us to Congress. It is their money. It is not our money. It is not the Federal Government's money. It is the taxpayers' money. As we work to protect these taxpayer dollars, we also have a duty and responsibility to protect these whistleblowers. They are the best allies we have. S. 795 accomplishes that goal. An identical bill was passed out of our committee. I would appreciate the support of our colleagues to further this. Again, I thank Mr. Cummings for his good work and passion on this. Mr. Speaker, I reserve the balance of my time. Mr. CUMMINGS. Mr. Speaker, I yield myself such time as I may consume. Mr. Speaker, I rise in strong support of S. 795. I introduced the House companion of this legislation, the Whistleblower Protections for Contractors Act. We are taking up the Senate measure today to make sure this bill can be signed by the President before the end of this Congress. I want to thank Senator McCaskill for all of her hard work and Senator Johnson for all that he did to make this bill come to this point. I would also like to give special thanks to Chairman Chaffetz for being an original cosponsor and helping bring this bill to the floor. Our committee has always stood hand in hand with regard to protecting whistleblowers, and we have made it abundantly clear that we will do everything in our power to protect them from any type of retaliation or any type of harm. Whistleblowers are the front line of defense against waste, fraud, and abuse. Employees who work on Federal contracts and grants see firsthand when taxpayer money is being wasted. They risk their careers to challenge abuses of power and mismanagement of government resources. They must be protected against retaliation when they blow the whistle on wrongdoing. Just the other day, we had a witness come before our committee, and it was clear that she was very, very concerned about retaliation to the point of almost being shaken. You could actually see it. When we see these folks, we realize and we are reminded of the fact that they bring a very important resource to us as the Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, and that is they bring us information, information that allows us to be able to address problems that we wouldn't even know about if it were not for them. I thank Chairman Chaffetz and our entire committee for taking the attitude of protecting whistleblowers to the greatest extent we possibly can. This bill would ensure that more employees are protected by giving subgrantees and personal services contractors the same whistleblower protections currently given to contractors, grant recipients, and subcontractors. This bill also would make protections for civilian contractors and grantees permanent. These are protections that contractors and grantees of the Department of Defense already enjoy. I urge every Member of Congress to stand up for whistleblowers, to stand up for good government, and to pass this legislation. Mr. Speaker, I urge all Members to vote in favor of this very important and meaningful legislation. I yield back the balance of my time. Mr. CHAFFETZ. Mr. Speaker, I urge adoption. I yield back the balance of my time. Ms. JACKSON LEE. Mr. Speaker, I rise in support of S. 795, a bill to enhance whistleblower protection for contractor and grantee employees. The Government Accountability Project, a leading U.S. organization in support of Federal whistleblower laws, supports without qualifications S. 795, legislation to make permanent a pilot program that provides whistleblower rights for employees of government contractors. The ``Pilot program for enhancement of contractor protection from reprisal for disclosure of certain information'' (pilot program) was established under 41 U.S.C. Sec. 4712, as an amendment to the FY2012 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA). Federal whistleblower protection laws are not new; they provide a means for government employees to report waste, fraud, and abuse of taxpayer resources. I support this bill because the bill extends federal contractor whistleblower protections to employees of: (1) personal services contractors working on defense contracts (currently, the protections apply to employees of defense contractors, subcontractors, grantees, or sub-grantees); and (2) personal services contractors or sub-grantees working on federal civilian contracts (currently, the protections apply to employees of civilian contractors, subcontractors, or grantees). This bill would codify a pilot program that is already in place that allows employees of civilian contractors to report waste, fraud, and abuse and make permanent the civilian contractor protections. S. 795 extends whistleblower protections to employees of subcontractors to report waste, fraud and abuse of federal taxpayer dollars. Whistleblower disclosures by Federal contract employees can save lives as well as billions of taxpayer dollars. For example, Section 1553 of the Obama Administration's 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, including within the IC. That provision was credited with the low rate of fraud reported around stimulus funds. During the Congressional oversight hearings, the Chair of the Legislation Committee of the Council of Inspectors General on Integrity and Efficiency (CIGIE) testified that: OIGs indicated that their investigations and reviews of the whistleblower complaints had resulted in recovery of approximately $1.85 million as of April of the first year it was in force. One of the key provisions of ARRA is Section 1553 that gives the authority of OIGs to investigate reprisal complaints from non-Federal employee whistleblowers. Federal whistleblower protection laws play a critical role in keeping our Government honest, efficient, and accountable by rooting out waste, fraud, and abuse as well as protecting public health and safety. Whistleblowers can be some of the most powerful tools in the federal government arsenal to protect taxpayer dollars. For example, the Securities and Exchange Commission finds of great assistance information from whistleblowers who know of possible securities law violations that could be among the most powerful weapons in the law enforcement arsenal of the Securities and Exchange Commission. According to USASpending.gov, in Fiscal Year 2015, the Federal government spent over $1 trillion in contracts and grants--$438 billion in contracts and $614 billion in grants. If this bill does not pass, contractors and grantees are in danger of losing hard-fought whistleblower protections if current protections are not extended. This bill makes those protections permanent, ensuring that contractors and grantees continue to have the security they need to report waste, fraud and abuse of taxpayer dollars. Much of this funding flows through the prime contractors and grantees to subcontractors and sub-grantees. The bill applies to subcontractors' existing prohibitions on reimbursable costs for contractors, including in their defense against retaliation claims by whistleblowers. Federal taxpayers should not foot the legal bills for contractors who retaliate against employees that report waste, fraud and abuse of taxpayer dollars. The SPEAKER pro tempore. The question is on the motion offered by the gentleman from Utah (Mr. Chaffetz) that the House suspend the rules and pass the bill, S. 795. The question was taken; and (two-thirds being in the affirmative) the rules were suspended and the bill was passed. [[Page H7149]] A motion to reconsider was laid on the table. ____________________