Republicans Want to Cut 115,000 Civilian Defense Jobs

Pentagon employees board a bus near the Pentagon metro station

Jacquelyn Martin/AP

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Pentagon employees board a bus near the Pentagon metro station

The bill would save $82.5 billion following a decade of defense hiring one lawmaker called ‘unnecessarily bloated.’ By Eric Katz

A group of Republican lawmakers are proposing to slash the civilian workforce at the Defense Department by 15 percent, a move they estimate will save $82.5 billion over five years.

The Rebalance for an Effective Defense Uniform and Civilian Employees, or REDUCE, Act would cut nearly 115,000 jobs from the department, from the current 770,000-person workforce down to about 655,000. Rep. Ken Calvert, R-Calif., who introduced the measure, said the Defense workforce has become unnecessarily bloated over the last decade.

“The growth of the civilian workforce within the DoD continues to create a significant budgetary burden but, more importantly, if left unchecked it will negatively impact our men and women in uniform,” Calvert said. “Many of our civilians at the Pentagon and around the world do a fine job but their growth is unsustainable.”

Calvert added that Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel’s recently announced plan to reduce the department’s footprint targets the military, rather than the civilian side. The lawmaker said Hagel would jeopardize national security while failing to make “tough but necessary decisions” to trim the civilian workforce.

Pentagon officials, however, including outgoing Defense Comptroller Bob Hale, have said the department plans to reduce the number of civilian employees by around 40,000 in the coming years.

(Read more Defense One coverage of the budget here)

The bill would implement the 15 percent reduction by fiscal year 2020 and keep the number of civilians capped for five years after that. It would authorize the Pentagon to offer voluntary buyout and early retirement incentives, and give more weight to job performance and tenure when issuing reductions in force.

Calvert pointed specifically to the Office of the Secretary of Defense as an area with out-of-control growth, though Hagel has already announced plans to cut 200 employees from his office of more than 2,000.

The American Federation of Government Employees, which represents many Defense civilians, blasted the legislation, saying it would simply defer costs to contractors.

“Rep. Ken Calvert of California claims to be a staunch supporter of the military and an advocate of reducing the nation’s debt, yet his bill would undermine DoD’s ability to perform its mission and drive up costs to untold levels,” said AFGE National President J. David Cox Sr.

Cox added if Calvert really wanted to implement savings at Defense, he would introduce a bill to insource more work and reduce the number of department contractors. 

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