The Defense Department has put an arbitrary cap on the civilian workforce, violating a federal law. The Army has been going along with it, laying off thousands of employees and replacing them with military personnel and contractors. And now the Army is exploring ways to justify the cap by allowing managers to seek exceptions to its illegal civilian manpower freeze. The service earlier this month distributed draft guidance establishing this process.
“Unfortunately, the draft guidance would do little to mitigate against the intrinsic arbitrariness of the cap,” said AFGE President J. David Cox Sr. in a letter to Army Secretary John McHugh in response to the Army’s request for comment on the process. “It would also leave in place a policy that exalts the means of the cap at the expense of the objective of cost-reduction.”
Instead of seeking exceptions to the civilian cap, Cox said DoD and the Army need to follow the law and lift the cap, which, the Army admitted, has resulted in higher costs to taxpayers as civilians are often significantly cheaper than military personnel and contractors. DoD needs to manage by workloads and budgets. Its work needs to be assigned based on criteria, not arbitrary constraints. DoD must strive to generate efficiencies at all times. In 2013, DoD spent $453 billion on services, with civilian personnel consuming $72 billion, military personnel $146 billion, and contractors $216 billion.
“The Army wouldn’t have had to furlough civilian employees, which is a polite way of saying slash their income by 20% for six weeks, if the component had not over-indulged its service contractors,” President Cox said.