March 14, 2014
Tim Kauffman
[email protected]

AFGE: Bill to Slash DoD Civilian Workforce Would Undermine Mission, Increase Costs

Bill requiring 15% cut in civilian workforce is “irresponsible excuse at governing”

WASHINGTON – Legislation that would slash the size of the Department of Defense’s civilian workforce by 15 percent is an irresponsible proposal that actually would increase costs to taxpayers, the head of the largest federal employee union said.

“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,” American Federation of Government Employees National President J. David Cox Sr. said.

Calvert’s bill would force DoD to cut the civilian workforce by 15 percent by 2020, or nearly 120,000 employees.

“Rather than letting DoD decide who should be doing the work, Rep. Calvert’s legislation would hamstring the department into using more costly contractors and military personnel,” Cox said. “It’s an irresponsible excuse at governing that will only leave the country more in debt.”

The legislation ignores the fact that significant cuts already have been imposed on the civilian workforce. Over the objections of the White House and the Pentagon, Congress last year passed a provision that requires DoD to cut the civilian workforce by the same percentage as the reduction in the military workforce by 2017. Consequently, the civilian workforce currently is being downsized by at least 40,000 jobs.

None of the work is going away, meaning arbitrary cuts focused on civilian employees forces the Pentagon to rely more heavily on the military and contractors, even when it costs more and disregards the law.

“It is already well established that the existing cap on the size of the civilian workforce has resulted in DoD contracting out work at higher costs to taxpayers. In fact, civilian employees are in such short supply that the Army is increasingly having to use military personnel, who are more costly than civilians and even contractors because of their justifiably superior compensation, to perform routine functions that should be done by civilians,” Cox said.

Rep. Calvert’s legislation will exacerbate this untenable situation, forcing DoD to manage the same workload with 120,000 fewer civilian employees. It is incumbent on Congress to determine which functions the department should no longer perform, so that the relevant workforce can be downsized, Cox said. DoD and all other agencies should be able to perform its mission on the basis of budgets and workloads.

“If the department has work to do and money to pay for that work to be done, then there is no reason why DoD managers should be prevented from using civilian employees, contractors, or military personnel. Rather, performance decisions should be based on the law, cost, policy, and risk,” Cox said.

If Rep. Calvert really was interested in saving taxpayers money, he would author legislation encouraging DoD to insource more of its work and reduce its overreliance on costly contracts, Cox said. Using insourcing, DoD reduced its spending on service contracts by almost $1 billion in fiscal 2010 alone, according to the Government Accountability Office. The Army, which had conducted the most robust insourcing effort in DoD, reported savings of between 16 and 30 percent.

“Ultimately, the quickest way to cut costs in DoD is to increase the number of civilian employees so that more of the department’s enduring functions, which are currently performed by more expensive contractors and military personnel, can instead be performed by the civilian workforce – which is the cheapest and smallest of the department’s three workforces,” Cox said. 

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