Lawmaker estimates 89,000 Defense civilians would lose jobs under sequestration

Rep. Randy Forbes, R-Va. Rep. Randy Forbes, R-Va. AP file photo

A House Republican fears the loss of more than 100,000 civilian Defense Department jobs if sequestration takes effect and if a Senate committee proposal becomes law.

Rep. Randy Forbes, R-Va., chairman of the House Armed Services subcommittee on readiness, estimated this week that 89,000 Defense civilian jobs could be eliminated if across-the-board budget cuts take effect in January. He based the estimate on the assumption of an 11.3 percent cut to the department’s accounts, excluding military personnel.

Forbes expressed concerns that the department is not sufficiently prepared for this large reduction to its civilian workforce and is not adequately planning for sequestration, the automatic cuts mandated by the 2011 Budget Control Act, if Congress cannot reach an agreement on long-term plan to significantly reduce the deficit.

“Nobody wants it to happen, most especially not me,” Forbes said at a subcommittee hearing this week. “We have been talking about it for a while, but it appears there is little to no planning associated with this legislative mandate.”

Frederick Vollrath, principal deputy assistant secretary of defense for readiness and force management, told the panel that mass layoffs are not imminent. Congress would get at least 45 days’ notice before any cuts and affected employees then would receive 60 days’ notice. Also, before reductions in force decisions are made, the Pentagon would have to review any cuts imposed by sequestration, and that could take several months, he said. No such analysis is currently under way. Vollrath told the panel he was not aware of whether the department had plans to conduct a full analysis of civilian force reductions in the event of sequestration and any decisions to analyze cuts would have to start with the Defense secretary.

“We recognize that we operate in a dynamic and changing environment and therefore must retain the flexibility to adapt our workforces accordingly,” he said. “This includes incentivizing early retirements, strategic pauses in hiring and normal attrition.”

Forbes called the department’s lack of a pre-emptive analysis “baffling,” since the Government Accountability Office has suggested that step is crucial before cuts take place.

The Senate Armed Services Committee-passed version of the fiscal 2013 Defense authorization bill also recently included language that would cut funding for civilian personnel by approximately 5 percent. Combined with potential cuts under sequestration, Forbes said, more than 128,000 positions could be eliminated. Forbes also said Congress recently was notified that Defense extended its civilian personnel cap from its 2010 levels into fiscal 2018.

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