DoD Depots, Buyouts on Agenda

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Senate and House negotiators continued this week to review provisions in the 1998 Defense Department authorization bill that would allow for more employee buyouts, significantly downsize the acquisition workforce, and protect maintenance depots against contracting out.

As the end of the 1997 fiscal year draws near, a congressional source said the negotiators have been working "non-stop" on the bill.

The House version of the bill would cut the Defense acquisition workforce by 124,000 people by the end of fiscal year 2001, including a reduction of 40,000 workers next year. DoD's headquarters staff would be cut by 25 percent, or 12,500 employees, over the next four years as well.

The Senate's version of the bill would extend buyout opportunities through Jan. 1, 2002 to help meet the Quadrennial Defense Review's goal of eliminating 80,000 civilian jobs over the next five years.

In addition, House and Senate negotiators are tackling the politicized issue of DoD's maintenance depots. Several studies have recommended privatizing much of the work done at depots, but members of Congress representing districts in which depots are located have fought to keep those jobs in their districts. Currently, depots are governed by the 60/40 rule, which requires 60 percent of depot work to be performed by government employees, allowing 40 percent to be performed by contractors.

In negotiations last week, Senate conferees rejected a proposal to replace the 60/40 rule with a 50/50 formula. Other ideas still under consideration include ending privatization-in-place of two major depots and strengthening rules protecting federal employees at depots.

The number of DoD depot workers has been cut almost in half since 1990, to 76,000. The number of depots has dropped from 39 in 1988 to 21 today.

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