December 18, 2012
AFGE Communications

AFGE Statement on Fiscal Year 2013 National Defense Authorization Act

WASHINGTONJ. David Cox Sr., national president of the American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE), today released the following statement on the fiscal 2013 National Defense Authorization Act:

“AFGE members are deeply disappointed by the inequitable approach taken to workforce management policies by conferees to the fiscal 2013 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA).

“Reductions in the civilian workforce should be based on workload analysis, i.e., identifying the functions that should no longer be performed by the Department of Defense (DoD) and then dismissing the relevant personnel. Arbitrary cuts are contrary to law and common sense. DoD has three distinct workforces—military, civilian and contractor—each with its own unique mission. Just because one workforce is being cut by a certain amount doesn’t necessarily mean that the other workforces should also be cut by the same amount, as both the White House and the Pentagon have pointed out repeatedly.

“It is inevitable that DoD’s three workforces will be reduced. In fact, according to the House Armed Services Committee in 2012, military personnel are being reduced by 31,000 and civilian personnel are being reduced by 11,000. Yet, contractor personnel are being increased by 18,000. However, it’s imperative that cuts in civilian personnel be imposed intelligently and courageously. Telling DoD to do the same with less without regard to mission and performance is neither intelligent nor courageous. Last year, the House and the Senate significantly bolstered longstanding laws that forbade arbitrary constraints and cuts to the civilian workforce. This year, that measured and thoughtful approach was abandoned in favor of federal employee bashing.

“In order to get this provision through committee markup and off the Senate floor, proponents claimed that language excepting certain functions would reduce the impact of the cuts on the civilian workforce to 16,000 positions. However, in conference, behind closed doors, the language governing those exceptions was changed from mandatory to discretionary so that the hit can be the full five percent--or 36,000 positions. AFGE very much appreciates the efforts of Rep. Adam Smith, D-Wash., the House Armed Services Committee’s ranking member, to thoughtfully mitigate the damage inflicted on the civilian workforce by this provision.

“It is said that contractors are taking the same cut as civilian personnel. Wrong. As Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Carl Levin, D-Mich., pointed out last year, ‘Over the last decade, DoD spending for service contract services has more than doubled, from $72 billion in fiscal 2000 to more than $150 billion (not including spending for overseas contingency operations), while the size of the department’s civilian workforce has remained essentially unchanged.’ Given that most of this explosive growth in service contracting was intended to be short-term, there is no question that contractors should bear a higher percentage of cuts.

“As Chairman Levin has also pointed out in 2010, DoD can’t reliably cut service contracting costs because it lacks an inventory of contract services: ‘In the past, we’ve found that proposed cuts to contract services are nearly impossible to enforce because expenditures for service contracting are invisible in the department’s budget. For this reason, (the fiscal 2008 NDAA) required that the budget justification documents clearly and separately identify the amounts requested in each budget account for procurement of services. The department has not yet complied with that requirement.’ It’s now 2012, and DoD still has not completed its contractor inventory, as Chairman Levin correctly points out in the fiscal 2013 NDAA. That means civilian personnel costs can be identified and controlled, but service contractor costs cannot. And, inevitably, this means that the cuts are far more likely to be carried out on civilian personnel and less so on contractors, even though the civilian workforce is cheaper and smaller.

“Moreover, the Pentagon has imposed a cap on the size of the civilian workforce—which prevents it from growing in excess of its complement in 2010. As DoD officials have acknowledged, this cap is forcing managers to use contractors instead of civilians because spending on contractors is uncapped. Declared one Army official in Congressional testimony from March 2012: ‘Cost-effective workforce management decisions ought to be based on allowing for the hiring of civilians to perform missions, rather than contractors, if the civilians will be cheaper. The lifting of the civilian workforce cap would restore this flexibility...’

“Congress wouldn’t direct DoD to lift its wasteful civilian personnel cap. However, Chairman Levin did acknowledge that it was unfair and unproductive to cap just one of the department’s workforces. In the fiscal 2012 NDAA, he included a cap on service contracting costs, which removed the department’s incentive to substitute contractors for civilians. He provided this justification: ‘The committee concludes that an across-the-board freeze on DoD spending for contract services comparable to the freeze that the Secretary of Defense has imposed on the civilian workforce is warranted to ensure that the Department maintains an appropriate balance between its civilian and contractor workforces and achieves expected savings from planned reductions to both workforces.’

“In May, the Pentagon announced that it was extending the cap on civilian personnel through fiscal 2018. The Senate fiscal 2013 NDAA included a one-year extension of the cap on service contract spending. However, because of contractor concerns, the extension of the cap was dropped in conference—with this disingenuous report language: ‘The conferees note that the level of authorized spending for contract services is addressed elsewhere in this conference report.’

“This means that the civilian workforce will continue to work under an onerous cap and an unjustified cap that, as DoD acknowledges, prevents civilian employees from performing work even when in-house performance would be less costly, and that there is no cap on service contract spending, even though such spending has more than doubled in recent times.”

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