Pentagon will have to shed thousands of jobs during next few years under bill

ThelegislationdirectstheDefensesecretarytorebalanceandreducethecivilianandcontractorworkforcesfromfiscal2012throughfiscal2017byaratethatisatleastequaltothepercentageoffundingsavedfromplannedtroopreductions,or5percent.ThebillalsogivestheDefenseDepartmentdiscretionoverwhethertoexemptcertainmission-criticaljobs,includingmedicalservicesandmaintenanceofmilitaryequipment,fromthecuts.Theprovisionmeansthedepartmentcouldshedupto36,000jobsduringthenextfewyears.
Thecivilianandcontractorworkforceseachwouldhavetoreducetheirrollsby5percent,accordingtoasummaryoftheconferencereportfromtheSenateArmedServicesCommittee.
Theprovision,however,callsonthePentagontoensurethatthecivilianandcontractorsworkforcesare“appropriatelysized”withthemilitaryforcetocarryoutthedepartment’smissionandtofind“themostappropriateandcost-efficientmixofmilitary,civilian,andservicecontractorpersonnel.”
Thelanguageintheconferencereport,filedTuesdaybyHouse-Senatenegotiators,outlinesamorestrategicframeworkforcarryingoutthecutsthantheoriginalprovisionintheSenateversionoftheDefenseauthorizationbill.TheSenateprovision,insertedbySen.JohnMcCain,R-Ariz.,wascriticizedbytheAmericanFederationofGovernmentEmployeesandthePentagonfordirectingarbitrary,across-the-boardpersonnelcutsthatdidn’ttakeintoaccountthedepartment’sworkforceneeds.TheoriginalHouseversionofthebilldidnotcontainlanguagetoreducecivilianandcontractorpersonnel.
Lastweek,Washington-areaHouselawmakerssentalettertoHouseandSenateconferencenegotiatorsaskingthemtodroptheprovision.
“I’mdisappointedthateffortstostripthelanguageinconferencewereunsuccessful,butencouragedthatsomeofthechangesmadegivetheDepartmentofDefensemoreflexibilitythanexistedintheoriginalbill,”Rep.ChrisVanHollen,D-Md.,saidinanemailstatement.“Iamconfidentthat[Defense]Secretary[Leon]PanettaandhissuccessorwillnotimplementthearbitrarycutstocivilemployeesproposedintheinitialMcCainamendment.”
Thedepartmenthas120daysfromtheenactmentoftheDefenseauthorizationbilltoputtogetheradownsizingplanandsendittoCongress.TheconferencereportalsodirectsthePentagontoprovidestatusupdatesfromfiscal2015throughfiscal2018ontheworkforcereductions.
ThereductioninmilitarypersonnelresultingfromtheendoftheIraqwarandthedrawdowninAfghanistanoriginallypromptedMcCaintoincludethelanguagetoalsoshrinkthecivilianworkforceandcontractorsbyarateequaltothepercentageoffundingsavedfromplannedtroopreductions.Defenseisdecreasingtheactive-dutyandreserveforceby31,300betweenfiscal2012andfiscal2013.
ThePentagonalreadyplannedtoreducethecivilianworkforcebymorethan10,000betweenfiscal2012andfiscal2013;afiscal2010caponcivilianpersonnelremainsinplace.Thatcapdoesnotapplytocontractors.
AFGEsaidinstatementthatiswas“deeplydisappointedbytheinequitableapproachtakentoworkforcemanagementpoliciesbyconferees.”TheunionsaidthatthecutswillhitcivilianpersonnelharderthancontractorsbecausethePentagonlacksaninventoryofcontractservices,soitcan’treliablyidentifythosereductions.“Thatmeanscivilianpersonnelcostscanbeidentifiedandcontrolled,butservicecontractorcostscannot,”thestatementsaid.“And,inevitably,thismeansthatthecutsarefarmorelikelytobecarriedoutoncivilianpersonnelandlesssooncontractors,eventhoughthecivilianworkforceischeaperandsmaller.”
Downsizingthecivilianworkforceshouldbedone“intelligentlyandcourageously,”AFGEsaid.
ThegrouprepresentingfederalmanagersurgedthePentagontoconsultwithfrontlinemanagersonpersonnelcuts.“ItisimperativethatanyreductionsincivilianpersonnelaredonestrategicallytominimizedisruptionandtoensuretheDepartmentofDefense’smissionsarenotcompromised,”saidPatriciaNiehaus,nationalpresidentoftheFederalManagersAssociation.
Themassive$633.3billionbillalsocontainsseveralprovisionsrelatedtomilitarypayandbenefits.Itauthorizesa1.7percentpayraiseforservicemembersin2013,andrejectsanObamaadministrationproposalcallingforhigherfeesonpharmacydrugco-paymentsunderTRICARE.Specifically,thebillcapspharmacyco-paysbeginningin2014sothatsuchfeesareinlinewiththeannualretireecost-of-livingadjustment.Thecostsassociatedwiththefeeincreaseswouldbeoffsetbyafive-yearpilotprogramrequiringTRICAREforLiferecipientstoobtainmaintenancedrugrefillsthroughthemail,whichischeaperthanobtainingthemthroughretailpharmacies.
“Thisyear,Congressagreedwithusthatit’stimetoputthatCOLA-basedstandardinlawforadjustmentstoTRICAREpharmacycopays,”KathyBeasley,deputydirectorforgovernmentrelationsattheMilitaryOfficersAssociationofAmerica,saidinanemail.“Whatthisdoesisprotectthiscoremilitarybenefitfromarbitraryanddramaticyear-to-yearchangesbasedonbudgetarywhimsofPentagonleaders.”Shesaidthatwhiletheyarenot“fansofmandatorymail-orderuse,”MOAAfelttheneedtosupporttheinitiativetohelppayforthecaponco-pays.
TheDefenseauthorizationbillconfereescraftedalsoestablishesacommissiontoreviewmilitarycompensationandretirementbenefits,enhancessuicidepreventionandsexualassaultpreventionprogramsinthemilitary,andauthorizesthedepartmenttopayforabortionsincasesofrapeandincest.
TheHouseandSenateareexpectedtovoteonthebillthisweek.


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