August 01, 2013
Tim Kauffman
[email protected]

DoD Employee Union Pans Proposal for Across-the-Board Personnel Cuts

WASHINGTON – The Pentagon’s proposal to indiscriminately slash military and civilian headquarters personnel by 20 percent is a bad policy that violates federal law and jeopardizes the Defense Department’s ability to perform its mission, the head of the largest federal employee union said today.

American Federation of Government Employees National President J. David Cox Sr. today sent a letter to Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel outlining the union’s staunch opposition to this proposal, which was outlined in a Pentagon memorandum.

“As the scope of the Pentagon’s mission is reduced, a commensurate reduction in headquarters staffing is not just inevitable but desirable as well. However, imposing arbitrary cuts and focusing almost exclusively on civilian and military personnel are failed approaches to downsizing,” Cox wrote.

A copy of the letter can be found here:

Arbitrarily slashing civilian and military headquarters staffs by 20 percent, without any consideration of mission, violates Title 10, Section 129 of the U.S. Code and the total force management philosophy codified in the fiscal 2012 National Defense Authorization Act. The across-the-board personnel cuts also disregard various departmental guidance pertaining to total force management, workforce mix and the cost of manpower.

“Despite references to allocations and reallocations, we all know that the result of this arbitrary approach will likely be across-the-board cuts and stubborn efforts to do the same with less – rather than thoughtful, mission-driven decisions to downsize – which will leave most organizations less responsive without eliminating the functions that the Department no longer needs or can afford,” Cox said.

The policy also is unabashedly biased toward contractors, since the department doesn’t include any reduction target for contractor staff.

“Why would the Pentagon want to shield contractors in headquarters from cuts given the recent admission by Comptroller Hale before the Senate Defense Appropriations Subcommittee that contractors are significantly more (as much as two to three times) expensive than civilian employees?” Cox wrote.

There is no workforce more worthy of reductions than contractors at headquarters, Cox said. Most are performing functions that are either inherently governmental or closely associated with inherently governmental, often pursuant to unauthorized personal services contracts.

“We all know of the former senior civilian and military officials who leave government service and then return to their old offices as contractors, and, effectively, continue to make policy even though their first loyalty is no longer to the department,” Cox wrote.

The Pentagon’s acquisition process, particularly at headquarters, uses contractors extensively to perform many closely associated with inherently governmental functions: evaluating another contractor’s performance, planning acquisition strategies, assisting in support of acquisition planning, assisting in contract management, evaluating another contractor’s proposal, and assisting in the development of statements of work. In 2012, Congress required DoD to incrementally reduce spending for such contracts by 20%, but the department has refused to comply.

“AFGE is proud to represent rank-and-file civilian employees, few of whom work in headquarters. However, our members have a compelling interest in seeing that the department is managed by civilian managers whose first loyalty is to the department,” Cox wrote. “The department should insist that reductions in headquarters staff are thoughtful and mission-driven, as well as consistent with laws and guidance for workforce management.”

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