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IFPTE Urges Rep. Norcross to Seek Answers to the Navy's Dragon Speak Problem

After learning that IFPTE Local 3 member, Dawn Dunphy, is being threatened with termination because the Navy has failed for four years to properly accommodate her disability, IFPTE is asking Ms. Dunphy’s congressman and member of the House Armed Services Committee, Rep. Donald Norcross, to ask the hard questions, including, “How much taxpayer money the Navy is wasting on NOT rendering this standard assistive technology software functional….”. Read the full letter and the GovExec article about the issue below.


December 14, 2017

Honorable Donald Norcross
U.S. House of Representatives
1531 Longworth Office Building
Washington, DC 20515

Dear Representative Norcross:
On behalf of the International Federation of Professional and Technical Engineers (IFPTE), representing upwards of 90,000 workers, including nearly 2,000 federal employees employed at the Naval Surface Warfare Center (NSWCPD), Ship Systems Engineering Station in Philadelphia, I am writing regarding an issue of importance to Navy workers directly, including a constituent living in your congressional district, as well as an issue that is in dire need of oversight from the United States Congress.

The two aspects of this issue that IFPTE wishes to bring to your attention are the following:

1. Casework update on behalf of your constituent: As you may be aware, your constituent living in New Jersey’s first congressional district, Dawn Dunphy, was among a small group of IFPTE Local 3 members employed at NSWCPD, Philadelphia, that visited your office back in June. At that meeting there were a series of issues raised with your staff, including Ms. Dunphy’s fight against efforts by NSWCPD to unjustly terminate her due to the Navy’s inability to accommodate her disability. As Ms. Dunphy articulated when seeking assistance from your office, she was recruited and hired by NSWCPD four years ago to come from her home state of Maine to work in Philadelphia. At the time she was offered the job, NSWCPD was fully aware of her disability and promised to provide her with Dragon Naturally Speaking (Dragon), which would accommodate her disability and allow her to fully perform her job. However, NSWCPD has yet to accommodate her disability, as the Navy has failed to render Dragon functional, even though it works elsewhere throughout the federal government, including within the DoD. Because of the Navy’s failure, Ms. Dunphy is now being illegally threatened with termination due to no fault of her own. Subsequent to our June meeting in your office, Ms. Dunphy filled out the appropriate waivers and paperwork to request that you inquire into this situation on her behalf. While we have seen no written correspondence from your office, or have yet to receive any updates on the status of her situation, we do understand that your office is considering this matter on behalf of Ms. Dunphy, which we appreciate. Understanding that this is considered ‘casework’ on behalf of your constituent, and not a part of your oversight duties as a member of the House, we would like to request a meeting for Ms. Dunphy to meet with you directly at your earliest convenience to get a verbal update on what your office has learned about her case.

2. Legislative oversight request in your role as a member of the House Armed Services Committee (HASC): It is IFPTE’s understanding that Dragon Naturally Speaking does not work Navy-wide, and that those workers who need it are either not provided it, or are not asking for it because they are concerned that it could impact their employment status with the Navy. This was all but confirmed by reporting from GovExec reporter, Eric Katz, who published an article on November 16th regarding the Navy’s inability to make Dragon functional, contending that, “Top leaders at the Navy and Defense Department have been aware of the problem for years.” This is also confirmed by Ms. Dunphy, who has done research of her own and found that, even though there are Navy workers who require Dragon, many do not request it because they fear they will not only be denied the accommodation, but will end up being terminated. Despite this, the Navy continues to spend untold amounts of taxpayer resources over many years for a product that no Navy employee is able to use. In IFPTE’s view, this is a reckless waste of taxpayer resources and should be investigated by the HASC, which has direct oversight of the Navy.

In your oversight role as a member of the HASC, and as Ms. Dunphy’s congressional representative, IFPTE would respectfully request that your office question the Navy regarding the following:

  • Why Dragon does not work within the Navy, while it works elsewhere throughout the federal government?
  • Why do the Navy and NSWCPD continue to be in noncompliance with the Congressionally mandated requirement “that when Federal agencies develop, procure, maintain, or use electronic and information technology, Federal employees with disabilities have access to and use of information and data that is comparable to the access and use by Federal employees who are not individuals with disabilities” [29 U.S.C. § 794 (d)]?
  • How much taxpayer money the Navy is wasting on NOT rendering this standard assistive technology software functional and on allowing the IT contractor to claim they “cannot get it to work” (despite the voluminous evidence to the contrary)?
  • The name of the IT contractor(s) receiving taxpayer money to “approve [Dragon] for use on the Navy’s Marine Corps Intranet”, and who has been continuously and repeatedly ‘certifying Dragon for use on the Navy’s NMCI IT system and computers’, despite its thoroughly documented continuous non-functionality?
  • How much money to date the contractor(s) has received for all costs in relation to Dragon (including, but not limited to - for the ‘approval/certification’ of the Dragon software on the NMCI system/computers, monthly ‘program usage’ charges, IT support call charges, personnel & per diem charges for attending the numerous and extensive ‘Dragon non-functionality demonstration’/purported troubleshooting sessions, etc.)?
  • How many Navy workers have requested Dragon and/or need Dragon to perform their jobs?
  • How many disabled workers are being retaliated against, fired, and threatened to be fired simply because the Navy is not providing this standard reasonable accommodation?
  • What the Navy and NSWCPD can do to reverse course and accommodate their disabled workers, like Ms. Dunphy, versus attempting to illegally fire them based solely on their physical disabilities?
It is imperative for workers like Ms. Dunphy as well as the taxpayers who put their trust in the Congress to ensure that their monies are being spent wisely and not being wasted, that these questions are answered, and that the Congress act appropriately moving forward.

Thank you for your consideration and we look forward to your reply.


Matthew S. Biggs,
IFPTE Assistant to the President/Legislative Director

Enclosures: 11/16/2017 GovExec Article, Navy Poised to Fire Employee After Failing for 4 Years to Accommodate Her Disability

CC: Hon. Corey Booker, U.S. Senate
Hon. Robert Menendez, U.S. Senate

IFPTE Letter to Rep. Norcross on behalf of Local 3 Member Dawn Dunphy

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