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Lankford Prioritizes Service Members, Veterans, and Their Families

WASHINGTON, DC – Senator James Lankford (R-OK) today introduced four important bills to help our service members, veterans, and their families. Lankford introduced the Military Spouse Employment Act, the Service Contract Modernization Act, the Department of Defense (DOD) Improved Hiring Act, and the Retain Skilled Vets Act.

“We can and should address these hurdles for our heroes in Oklahoma and around the world to increase efficiency, open new opportunities, and address process flaws,” said Lankford. “My bills give military spouses the option of federal careers, update the dollar amount for DOD service contracts, and establish direct hiring authority to fill critical support staff needs for our military. Additionally, military retirees currently have to wait six months to enter civilian employment at the DOD, which has caused the government to lose valuable and skilled workers to the private sector where they can start a new career much faster. Our military deserves the best and brightest civilian workforce. We should immediately pass these nonpartisan solutions for our service members, veterans, and their families.”

Lankford continues to lead the way to support our active duty and retired service members and their families in Oklahoma, around the nation, and at installations around the world. Lankford supported the Fiscal Year 2023 James M. Inhofe National Defense Authorization Act (FY23 NDAA) for Oklahoma’s military installations and national defense initiatives, which included a 4.6 percent pay raise for our military, funding for the new Tulsa VA clinic, and authorization and funding for all missions at Oklahoma’s military installations.

Lankford fought for and recently received a commitment from Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin that all members who requested a religious accommodation from the COVID-19 vaccine and who have been waiting on a response, will now get the answers they have been waiting for and be allowed to return to their duties. He put forward a bill to get discharged service members back to their posts after already putting a stop to “dishonorable discharges” for military members who did not want to receive the COVID-19 vaccine.

Lankford exposed and continues to seek answers to a TRICARE cover-up that has caused some Oklahoma service members and veterans to lose access to their local pharmacies.

Background on the Military Spouse Employment Act

recent survey found that 43 percent of active duty families surveyed said spousal unemployment is an issue for them, and 42 percent of military spouses reported they are not in the labor force and are looking for employment. A combination of issues keeps military spouses from holding jobs. Nearly half of the spouses said they would look for a new job in the next year. Thirty-three percent of spouses said the reason they aren’t working was because their family will relocate soon because of new military orders. Underemployment also continues to be an issue for 63 percent of military spouses. Lankford’s bill allows military spouses to have a remote work career with any federal agency, which would allow them to build a career while they move with their spouse. Lankford is joined in introducing the bill by Senators Kyrsten Sinema (I-AZ), Angus King (I-ME), and Deb Fischer (R-NE).

Lankford’s Military Spouse Employment Act passed the Senate in the 117th Congress but did not receive consideration by the full House of Representatives.

Background on the Service Contract Modernization Act

DOD contracts are currently subject to the McNamara–O’Hara Service Contract Act (SCA), which was put in place in 1965 when the costs of goods and services were substantially less than today. SCA applies to all federal government contracts for service employees with a contract value over $2,500, including contracts for cafeteria or food services, security guard services, washing laundry, custodial and janitorial services, dry cleaning services, and computer services. Contracts above that threshold trigger a number of SCA requirements that include fringe benefits and other add-ons. That $2,500 threshold was likely a sufficient threshold in 1965, but it has not kept up with inflation. The Service Contract Modernization Act updates that threshold for government contracts before fringe benefits kick in from $2,500 to $21,000.

Background on the DOD Improved Hiring Act

The DOD Improved Hiring Act would make permanent the direct hire authority of the Secretary of Defense for domestic defense industrial base facilities, the Major Range and Test Facilities Base, and the Office of the Director of Operational Test and Evaluation. The current temporary authority has enabled Oklahoma military installations to fill critical operational needs where qualified candidates are otherwise not available, when projects are on a limited timeframe, or for assignments where the extensive formal hiring process is impractical.

Background on the Retain Skilled Vets Act

Lankford’s Retain Skilled Vets Act would limit the six-month waiting period that a military retiree must wait until he or she can enter a civilian job at the DOD for which he or she is qualified to GS-14 and above, essentially repealing the waiting period for positions GS-13 and below. Lankford is joined in introducing the bill by Senators Kyrsten Sinema (I-AZ), John Cornyn (R-TX), Mike Lee (R-UT), Mike Braun (R-IN), and Mitt Romney (R-UT), Jon Ossoff (D-GA), Raphael Warnock (D-GA).