Pentagon ends temporary stoppage in civilian hiring

Commands and agencies throughout the Defense Department have identified the precise civilian jobs they intend to eliminate or restructure under a Pentagon initiative to cut back layers of administration.

The department said Monday that all offices in the “fourth estate” had now cataloged their personnel plans in an internal database, giving leaders more visibility into the overall structure of the civilian workforce. As a result, the Pentagon has lifted a selective hiring freeze that was meant to prod individual Defense components into reporting exactly how they’d comply with the “delayering” initiative Deputy Secretary Robert Work first ordered last July.

“All organizations have met the June 30 deadline to finalize their manpower adjustments in the Fourth Estate Manpower Tracking System (FMTS),” Lt. Col. Eric Badger, a Pentagon spokesman said in a statement. “Each organization accounted for all of their positions in FMTS, and the hiring suspension for these activities is lifted.”

Work ordered the delayering initiative in an effort to stay ahead of ongoing congressional pressure to pare back headquarters spending throughout the department.  A July 2015 memo told Defense organizations to conduct a thorough review of their ratio of supervisors to rank-and-file employees and come up with plans for a flatter management structure throughout their organizations.

The 2016 Defense authorization bill, passed later that year, required DoD to find at least $10 billion in headquarters savings, and also to define a baseline of what it was already spending on “major headquarters activities” so that Congress could hold the department accountable for any headquarters cuts it claimed to have made.

The total hiring freeze, which took effect in March and whose lifting was first reported by Defense News, applied only to the fourth estate, a colloquialism for the Defense functions that fall outside the three military departments, including the Office of the Secretary of Defense, the military’s combatant commands and Defense agencies.

Work indicated at the time that the freeze was primarily intended as an enforcement mechanism for the delayering project he’d already announced.

“We must avoid hiring into positions that an organization has already committed to eliminate as a result of delayering,” he wrote in the February memo that ordered the freeze. “Once the delayering plans are codified in FMTS, components may begin hiring actions for vacant positions aligned with their approved prospective organizational structure.”

The Senate version of the 2017 Defense authorization bill continues the congressional drumbeat to cut headquarters staffs. It would mandate a 25 percent reduction in senior executives throughout the department.

It would also cut the numbers of generals and admirals in the military services by 25 percent, along with the support staffs that tend to grow increasingly larger in proportion to a general or flag officer’s rank.

Four-star officers are the bill’s largest target: the legislation would cut the department’s total number of full admirals and general from 41 to 27.

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