A member of the House Armed Services Committee (HASC) will push a bill to add new incentives for industry members to include workforce development in their bids for defense programs in the next Congress.
Rep. Anthony Brown (D-Md.), a colonel in the U.S. Army Reserve, has introduced the Developing the National Security Workforce Act, H.R. 6684, that if enacted, would incorporate a workforce development consideration into the federal procurement process for defense spending, he said Oct. 2 at an aerospace industry event hosted by the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics and the Aerospace Industries Association on Capitol Hill.
He noted that the proposal is a consideration, not a requirement; similar to environmental considerations that are already included in some contract proposals.
“You are often not required to include it, but if you do, you are more favorably considered, all things being equal,” Brown said. “I can envision an RFP where a bidder not only lays out how they are going to provide the best technology to meet that particular requirement, but … [how they will] invest in workforce development by partnering with the local community college or the local high school.”
Brown’s proposal could also include financial incentives if a contractor can demonstrate cost savings achieved from its investment in workforce development, he noted.
“If over the long term, if you can produce more welders and have fewer work stoppages — which means you’ll be able to deliver more and on time and on or under cost — then we’ll design that contract where you will share in some of those savings,” he said. “So your investment in workforce development could see some returns in savings in that particular cadre.”
These proposals are meant to encourage the private sector to help deliver the “education and training necessary to ensure that we have a competent, skilled, capable workforce,” Brown said. “That’s true whether you’re a welder on an aircraft carrier for Huntington Ingalls [Industries] or whether you’re a computer engineer … working for Lockheed Martin.”
The defense industry is facing a workforce shortage at every level, including for employees with vocational-technology certificates and those requiring doctorates, Brown noted. Many contractors already participate in programs that support science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) education in public schools, but Brown noted that “Congress can do more to incentivize” those efforts.
“I am convinced that our public schools alone … are incapable of meeting that mission alone,” he added.
The act has three Democratic co-sponsors: Reps. Yvette Clarke (N.Y.), Henry "Hank" Johnson, Jr. (G.A.) and Sheila Jackson Lee (Texas), said Ethan Treicher, Brown's deputy press secretary. Brown has also sponsored a similar bill in the same package to include a workforce development consideration for programs in non-defense, executive agencies dubbed the Workforce Development and Federal Contracting Act, H.R. 6686.