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DOE seeks public comment on contractor policy

Posted On: Apr. 4, 2007 12:00 AM CST

WASHINGTON--The Department of Energy is asking for public comment on whether it should continue to reimburse its contractors for defined benefit pension plan costs.

While the DOE says it intends to continue its policy, it also believes an examination of that policy "is appropriate to ensure prudent fiscal management of taxpayer dollars."

The costs and liabilities associated with the benefits, the DOE said, are "projected to grow over the next several years at a rate that significantly exceeds likely increases in the department's budget."

Last April, the DOE attempted to modify its policy, mandating for new employees that it would reimburse contractors only for costs associated with defined contribution plans, such as 401(k) plans, so long as the costs of those plans didn't exceed certain benchmarks.

At the time, the DOE said the new policy would "improve the predictability of contractor benefit costs and mitigate the growth" of the department's liabilities. The policy was supposed to have gone into effect this year.

But the DOE's action was short-lived. In June, the department suspended the pension reimbursement policy. During the suspension, the DOE said it would consult with stakeholders, including Congress, on the issue. The suspension occurred after the House of Representatives approved an appropriations bill with an amendment to bar the DOE from implementing its new pension reimbursement policy.

The request for public comment is available at www.management.energy.gov. The deadline for comments is May 11.