The Defense Department is considering civilian reductions in force in fiscal 2014 to match reduced budget levels required by sequestration.
In a letter to the Senate Armed Services Committee, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said that while he is “fully committed” to enacting President Obama’s budget, he is currently planning a “contingency plan” in case sequestration remains in effect.
“DoD is hoping to avoid furloughs of civilian personnel in fiscal year 2014,” Hagel wrote, “but the department might have to consider mandatory reductions in force.”
Hagel added the RIFs do not offer much in the way of immediate savings, but would help the department reach future budget caps. The Pentagon would have to slash $52 billion from its budget next year if Congress fails to strike a deal to end sequestration.
“While painful,” Hagel wrote, “RIFs would permit DoD to make targeted cuts in civilian personnel levels rather than the more across-the-board cuts associated with furloughs.”
Military personnel would fare better, as their funding cuts would be “disproportionately small” due to separation costs. If Congress moves forward with its plan to raise military pay 1.8 percent -- rather than the 1 percent Obama called for -- implementing sequester cuts would be even more difficult, Hagel said.
The Defense Department could severely trim military personnel, but it would require halting accessions, ending permanent-change-of-station moves, stopping discretionary bonuses and freezing promotions. As the Pentagon has repeatedly emphasized, continued cuts would also negatively affect maintenance, modernization and readiness.
“In sum,” Hagel said, “the abrupt, deep cuts caused by the [2011 Budget Control Act] caps in FY 2014 will force DoD to make non-strategic changes. If the cuts continue, the department will have to make sharp cuts with far reaching consequences, including limiting combat power, reducing readiness and undermining the national security interests of the United States.”