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Mrs. DAVIS OF VIRGINIA. And thank you to all of our guests today for being so patient with us. And they are telling us we may have a vote here in the next 15 minutes or so, so we will have to see what happens.
I would like to yield now to Mr. Souder.
First, I want to thank, Mr. Cannon, the FOP, for your letter in our efforts on trying to stop this back-door legalization of marijuana. We have that; that will be one of not the immediate next series but the next series after that of votes, and hopefully we will prevail, thanks a lot to your help, the narcotics officers of the United States, and others who are standing firm as people try to weaken the laws and increase the terror in our streets.
And we want to thank all of your agencies, because you are front line in our defense. Diana Dean and the great Customs Inspectors; the people in the Border Patrol are out there, relatively boring job much of the time, watching for people coming across illegally and the drug runs that come sometimes. There was one done by cells with seven SUVs tearing in, planning to shoot their way through. To argue INS agents, who are immigration authorities, trying to check for the illegal people coming through, never knowing increasingly in this day and age if they are al Qaeda or just a random poor person trying to find a job, there is a big difference in that risk. Much like a police officer going to a domestic disturbance, when you go in there and then they are fleeing, you don't know whether they have a gun, a knife, or what exactly you are dealing with, whether they are on drugs or alcohol. And the risk that everybody takes is very much appreciated by all of us.
Mr. Gallo's testimony jogged me. First, I want to thank you for, in particular, acknowledging my colleague's graduation from the premier university of the United States, Notre Dame, that there aren't too many of us Nomers here, but we are a stick-together type. But you triggered a question in my mind, and I thought it was a very interesting layout of the history as we have tried to work through this.
In locality pay, does locality pay, I presume, get counted into the retirement base?
Mr. GALLO. Yes, it does, sir.
Mr. SOUDER. Because one of the problems I potentially see in moving this, because I thought it was really good in reading through your full testimony about what we run into in trying to pass this, and whether people would move from other places—particularly to use the word “veteran,” people in the agencies would move to places of high locality pay. Therefore, the 18 areas not covered were concerned about the locality pay and losing their senior people. And that is, is that locality is pay to really address what you are dealing with in trying to come up with housing and costs when you are moving into an area. But if it was really just locality pay, nobody would transfer over just to get the pay.
Mr. GALLO. That's correct.
Mr. SOUDER. So it's retirement, because it's based on the previous, if you're in the old system, what, top 3 years? That if even if the locality pay merely was to equalize, it really wouldn't be
Mr. GALLO. That's correct.
Mr. SOUDER. So in trying to figure out how to work this, that may be have you addressed that before? Should locality pay not count in the retirement and, rather, have a base that is based on your senior level of activity and locality pay is pulled out of that retirement system? Or would you not adjust the locality pay quite as much because it is going to help you in retirement? Because that is not a locality adjustment, then, if there is an incentive to move to another area.
Mr. GALLO. Sir, in order to get that locality pay or the little bit extra, right now the RUS pay district is at 9 percent.
Mr. SOUDER. Let me first acknowledge that it is way off now. That is not the current, currently. But if we try to adjust it, should that be calculated in the adjustment if we try to legitimately? Because you could see from the salary differences, I mean, some areas are 78,000 for local police officers and others were 40-something.
So, in the current system it is totally broken. But as we look to revise it and if we were actually looking to make the playing field level, how do we calculate that retirement?
Mr. GALLO. That is one of the reasons why all the districts were included, so it wouldn't be such a huge disparity between the RUS and the San Francisco and the New York. We cut down some of those areas and we raised the RUS a little bit so the disparity wouldn't be as pronounced.
But there is a big issue in reference to that, Congressman, in reference to Alaska and Hawaii, because they are going to get a 25 percent COLA. They don't get any locality pay; they get a 25 percent cost-of-living adjustment, and it doesn't count at all toward your retirement. And the Congressmen from Hawaii and the Senators from Hawaii have pointed out that a lot of their 48-year-ofage agents, because we get to retire at 50 years of age or 20 years in, are transferring to Los Angeles for their last 3 years, because the 17 percent locality pay in Los Angeles counts toward your retirement but your 25 percent COLA in Hawaii does not. And that's something that I guess we all have to look at in markup, to maybe make it a dollar-for-dollar conversion that the COLA would count. Because, again, if you raise Los Angeles up another-I think both bills have them going up more or less to 10 percent. Instead of being 17, it will be near 27 under Congressman Rogers' bill and Congressman King's bill. A 27 percent difference between Honolulu and L.A. may trigger a one-way ticket to the mainland for your last 3 years. And here you are with your 20 years of service or your 25 years of service, entering your last 3, and the citizens of Honolulu are deprived of your services, and in fact you are replaced with somebody else who is less senior, actually.
So that may be something for markup, sir, definitely.
Representative Van Hollen was supposed to be one of our witnesses for our first panel and wasn't able to be here. So I am going to go to him now, and I am going to give you time to do your opening statement and then ask questions.
STATEMENT OF HON. CHRIS VAN HOLLEN, A REPRESENTA
TIVE IN CONGRESS FROM THE STATE OF MARYLAND Mr. VAN HOLLEN. Thank you very much, Madam Chairwoman. And thank you, Chairman Souder, as well. And thank all the witnesses for your testimony.
And, Madam Chairwoman, I will be brief if I could just include my full statement in the record. And I appreciate the opportunity to testify on this legislation, H.R. 2276, the National Institutes of Health security bill. And I want to commend both Chairwoman Davis and Chairman Souder for taking the initiative on this whole set of Federal law enforcement legislation, and thank you for including this among them.
And I also want to thank the chairman and ranking member of the full committee for being cosponsors of this legislation and the chairman and ranking member of the Civil Service Subcommittee for their cosponsorship. I appreciate this being a bipartisan effort.
There is a heightened need to enact this bill dealing with NIH because of the nature of—the sensitive nature of the work done at NIH makes it a potential target for terrorist activities in this postSeptember 11 environment.
As the country's premier biomedical research facility, NIH is soon_going to become the home, or is expected to be the home of the BioShield initiative. And this Congress just passed the BioShield legislation recently out of the House on a bipartisan basis.
In response to September 11, 2001, the Congress increased the authorized size of the NIH police force from 64 officers to 85 officers. Unfortunately, that force has never come close to reaching that level of manpower.
And it's due to the current pay system and the retirement system and this bill is designed to address those shortcomings. The NIH Police are one of the lowest paid in the Washington metropolitan area. Making matters worse, they are not classified as Federal law enforcement officers and thereby they are denied the retirement benefits and the distinction that affords to others. The result has been a very low retention rate for officers and difficulty with recruitment. Even if you exclude retirement, there's been a 77 percent annual attrition rate at NIH. And as a result of staffing shortages, valuable investments have been lost. For example, NIH was forced to spend almost $2 million in overtime costs in fiscal year 2002.
In addition, every time a police officer leaves NIH, we lose the investment that we have made in training that officer. Again, for example, NIH spent over $200,000 training the 20 officers that left in fiscal year 2002. Thirty-four officers have left since September 11, 2001 for better pay and benefits elsewhere.
Let me just give you very few examples of the other consequences of the understaffing. There has been an inability to fill the specialty units such as the HAZMAT response, which is critical for responding to possible biological chemical and radioactive terrorist attacks. There has been an inability to provide routine and specialty training, which includes learning to respond to terrorist attacks or threats. When under high alert levels, NIH officers, under the protocol, they are required to assume additional responsibilities which they are unable to meet. They have been unable to patrol off-campus facilities even though that's required when you go to the higher levels. They have been forced to work 14-hour days, 6 to 7 days a week just to meet the minimal law enforcement and security responsibilities.
Those are some of the problems that have been associated with the current system. This legislation would change that by elevating their status, putting them on a status similar to other Federal law enforcement agents. It also provides some change in their jurisdiction. Right now, they're not allowed to go off NIH campus and do not have any kind of arrest authority even at their annexes or facilities that are off the main campus. In Bethesda, this legislation would expand that jurisdiction. So it tries to address a number of issues that I think are important. These are important issues for security before September 11. They become even more important since September 11, particularly given the sensitive nature of work that's going on at NIH in the proposed new location of the biomedical-excuse me, the biodefense lab at that particular site, which I have other concerns with, but certainly that is the expected home of that lab at this time.
So I thank you for the opportunity to testify, and I hope that we can include this in the final package that this committee reports.
[The prepared statement of Hon. Chris Van Hollen follows:]
Madam Chairwoman, I appreciate having this opportunity to testify in behalf of H.R. 2276, The
NIH, with its satellite facilities, consists of 27 Institutes and Centers, and more than 28,000 employees. There are approximately 3,000 research laboratorics, a hospitalclinical center that will exceed 3 million square feet when completed, many animal research and holding facilities, a 300acre main campus, a 500-acrc animal research complex, a 500-acre environmental health research campus, a 70-acre cancer research campus, a 33-acre infectious disease research campus, radiation safety storage facilities, a computer support center (a critical infrastructure of the Federal Government), child care centers, a world-renowned national medical research library, banks, credit unions, pharmacies, a central warehouse and mail distribution center, power plant, motor-pool, cafeterias/ snack bars, fitness centers, as well as a variety of other supporting commercial, industrial, and administrative operations encompassing both on and off main campus locations.
There is a heightened need to cnact this bill because NIH, due to the sensitive nature of work, could be a potential target for terrorists. As the country's premier biomedical research facility, NIH will soon be home to Project BioShield, a new Homeland Security initiative recently passed by the House to produce vaccines and treatments to protect Americans against biomedical and chemical weapons.