One Solution to Sequestration: Slash Tens of Thousands of Defense Jobs

Defense Department file photo

The Defense Department could manage long-term budget cuts from sequestration by massively reducing its civilian workforce, according to teams of analysts from Washington-based think tanks.

The teams came up with their solutions to the across-the-board spending cuts during a shadow budget review organized by the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments and held on Capitol Hill Wednesday afternoon. CSBA’s simulation directed the analysts to choose specific programs to maintain or cut based on full sequestration -- a $522 billion budget reduction through fiscal 2023 -- and about half that figure ($247 billion) in the same timeframe.

The four participating organizations -- the American Enterprise Institute; the Center for a New American Security; the Center for Strategic and International Studies; and CSBA -- all said that Defense could reduce its workforce by tens of thousands through the next decade under both budget scenarios while continuing to focus its resources on key priorities like cyber warfare and the pivot to Asia.

The simulated cuts to the workforce ranged from a reduction of 82,000 civilians -- as AEI’s team proposed -- to 263,000, as argued by CNAS’ team. The teams assumed constant increases in civilian and military pay at the rates proposed in Defense’s fiscal 2014 budget request.

Possible cuts would need to go along with rounds of the Base Closure and Realignment Commission process to shutter some unnecessary facilities and direct resources to more strategic areas, the analysts found. However, this is unlikely to be politically palatable; the Obama administration’s proposal for another round of BRAC is falling on deaf ears in Congress.

The teams also directed their simulated budget axe at some branches of the military. Under a full sequestration scenario, all four teams reduced Army Active Component end strength by more than 70,000 troops, with CSIS proposing a 163,000 troop cut. The teams shifted the money they saved to create additional capabilities in the Navy and Air Force.

The simulation comes as Defense on Thursday delayed the rollout of its Strategic Choices and Management Review for several weeks, according to the American Forces Press Service. In March, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel ordered Deputy Defense Secretary Ashton Carter and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Martin Dempsey to undertake the review, which will guide the Pentagon’s fiscal 2015 budget request and affect some resource decisions for fiscal 2014.  Defense Comptroller Robert Hale has said that longer-term sequestration could mean job losses at Defense. 

Below are a few graphs from CSBA comparing the way the analyst teams allocated their cuts and priorities.

Sequestration at Defense

Stay up-to-date with federal news alerts and analysis — Sign up for GovExec's email newsletters.
Close [ x ] More from GovExec

Thank you for subscribing to newsletters from
We think these reports might interest you:

  • Sponsored by G Suite

    Cross-Agency Teamwork, Anytime and Anywhere

    Dan McCrae, director of IT service delivery division, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)

  • Data-Centric Security vs. Database-Level Security

    Database-level encryption had its origins in the 1990s and early 2000s in response to very basic risks which largely revolved around the theft of servers, backup tapes and other physical-layer assets. As noted in Verizon’s 2014, Data Breach Investigations Report (DBIR)1, threats today are far more advanced and dangerous.

  • Sponsored by One Identity

    One Nation Under Guard: Securing User Identities Across State and Local Government

    In 2016, the government can expect even more sophisticated threats on the horizon, making it all the more imperative that agencies enforce proper identity and access management (IAM) practices. In order to better measure the current state of IAM at the state and local level, Government Business Council (GBC) conducted an in-depth research study of state and local employees.

  • Sponsored by Aquilent

    The Next Federal Evolution of Cloud

    This GBC report explains the evolution of cloud computing in federal government, and provides an outlook for the future of the cloud in government IT.

  • Sponsored by LTC Partners, administrators of the Federal Long Term Care Insurance Program

    Approaching the Brink of Federal Retirement

    Approximately 10,000 baby boomers are reaching retirement age per day, and a growing number of federal employees are preparing themselves for the next chapter of their lives. Learn how to tackle the challenges that today's workforce faces in laying the groundwork for a smooth and secure retirement.

  • Sponsored by Hewlett Packard Enterprise

    Cyber Defense 101: Arming the Next Generation of Government Employees

    Read this issue brief to learn about the sector's most potent challenges in the new cyber landscape and how government organizations are building a robust, threat-aware infrastructure

  • Sponsored by Aquilent

    GBC Issue Brief: Cultivating Digital Services in the Federal Landscape

    Read this GBC issue brief to learn more about the current state of digital services in the government, and how key players are pushing enhancements towards a user-centric approach.


When you download a report, your information may be shared with the underwriters of that document.