ROME – The Defense Finance and Accounting Services office in Rome is finding itself in the middle of a political debate between rivals for the 22nd Congressional District seat.
Wednesday morning, State Assemblyman and Congressional candidate Anthony Brindisi stood outside of DFAS and said the House of Representatives passed the National Defense Authorization Act, a bill that would potentially cut the DFAS operations budget by 25 percent.
The cuts could affect up to 200 local civilian jobs.
Though there is an amendment to the bill that says Congress has no intention of cutting DFAS jobs, Brindisi and DFAS union representative Ed Abounader believe the amendment won't stop the job cuts.
“So essentially what the Poliquin amendment says is Congress has no intention to harm DFAS, but the problem that we have is that the amendment is in a different section of the bill. It doesn't address the 25 percent cuts that are still within the defense authorization act,” said Brindisi.
When reached for comment, U.S. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer said, “DFAS Rome is an economic anchor with a thousand good-paying jobs and I will ferociously fight to block this harmful House of Representatives provision because it puts these precious jobs at risk.”
Brindisi says he is working along with Democratic Sen. Sherrod Brown of Ohio to convince members of the U.S. Senate to amend the bill and take the cuts to DFAS out. A move would have a larger impact in Ohio. There are 2,600 jobs in Cleveland and 6,000 in Whitehall that could be affected.
U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, a ranking member of the Senate Armed Services Personnel Subcommittee, said she is against this bill.
"I strongly oppose any attempts to cut the civilian workforce at DFAS," she said. "The provision that was included in the House defense bill places critical jobs of at risk, and I will work with my colleagues in the Senate to help make sure that it is not in the final version of the National Defense Authorization Act."
WKTV reached out to Rep. Claudia Tenney's office and heard from Tenney live on the phone on NEWSChannel2 at Noon. Click on the video player to listen to that phone interview.
Tenney's office says the “House version of the NDAA does not include any cuts to DFAS jobs, this is actually because of an amendment Rep. Tenney co-sponsored that passed the House.”
In a separate email, Tenney's office added: "To say that the amendment has no teeth is incorrect. The amendment clearly lays out Congressional intent which is a directive agencies and the judiciary use to interpret the intent of a provision in law. Agencies - including the Department of Defense - are required to follow Congressional intent when creating regulations based on laws passed by Congress. Any violation of congressional intent is unconstitutional and can be challenged in court."
Here is a link to the amendment, provided by Tenney’s office.