Defense to cut out bigger slice of workforce

The Department of Defense is directing 25 percent across the board cuts to its headquarters functions, including within the military services, the Office of the Secretary of Defense, Joint Staff, Defense agencies and the combatant commands.

An Aug. 24 memo from Deputy Secretary of Defense Robert Work orders the reductions for fiscal years 2017 to 2020.

“We anticipate Congress will require a 25 percent reduction in the funding of DoD headquarters in lieu of the 20 percent requirement previously established by the department,” the memo stated. “Even if Congress fails to act, the department needs the savings that will be achieved through this reduction to fund higher priority requirements in support of the warfighter and to address underfunded strategic needs.”

The direction adds an additional 5 percent cut to the original 20 percent reduction announced in July 2013. According to a GAO report that reviewed Defense reductions and workforce requirements, the cuts would save $5.3 billion over five years.

The GAO report also stated that in 2013  there were about 27,000 authorized military and civilian positions within the DoD’s headquarters operations, and those positions were worth about $4.7 billion.

The American Federation of Government Employees provided the memo to Federal News Radio.

The memo states the Office of the Secretary of Defense staff, Defense agencies and field activities “will also have a 25 percent reduction target in funding for authorized civilian personnel as part of the overall reduction in funding (with the same credit for productions previously taken). Relief from this target may be granted based on evidence that an office or component took additional personnel reductions prior to the imposition of the 20 percent reduction requirement. Relief may also be granted if an office or component reduced contractor costs by 1.5 times the cost of any excess retained authorized positions resulting from a reduction of less than 25 percent , or in exceptional circumstances.”

The direction comes as Congress returns from August recess facing a looming Sept. 30 funding deadline. An even larger proposal of 30 percent cuts was included in the Senate version of this year’s National Defense Authorization Act.

Sen. John McCain, chairman of the chamber’s Armed Services Committee, told reporters earlier this year that the cuts were to “ensure that DoD is using precious Defense dollars to defend the nation, not to expand bloated staffs.”

But in a statement from AFGE, President J. David Cox Sr., called the cuts “distressing,” and said the direction “could serve as a terrible precedent for arbitrary cuts to the civilian workforce, which is the least costly of the department’s three workforces but the one that is already scheduled to be cut the most through 2019. The Army already is planning to slash the civilian workforce by 30 percent at 30 installations nationwide.”

The union represents about 670,000 workers – more than a third of which are civilian Defense employees.

“Who will perform the work when a fourth or more of the workforce is obliterated?,” Cox said. “If DoD is hell-bent on slashing personnel, then it needs to start deciding what work simply cannot be performed any longer and cut staff accordingly. If cutting expenses is the number one priority, then the first place DoD should target is the vast bureaucracy of contractor personnel who cost more than federal workers and are less accountable to taxpayers.”

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