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Trump Revives Familiar Plan to Cut Federal Workforce

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Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump speaks about national security on Wednesday. Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump speaks about national security on Wednesday. Evan Vucci/AP

Donald Trump on Wednesday brought back a familiar Republican proposal to achieve deficit reduction: federal employee attrition. 

In a speech laying out his agenda to devote more resources to the military and defense-related programs, Trump said allowing civilian federal workers to leave without hiring replacements would help fund a build-up at the Pentagon. The Republican presidential nominee called for an end to the defense side spending cuts in place since 2013 that resulted from the 2011 Budget Control Act, saying the military has been depleted and left unready to fight due to insufficient funding.

Congress has staved off the full impact of the reductions since 2014 and through next year thanks to two budget deals, but the cuts are set to kick back in in full force in fiscal years 2018 through 2021.

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The law requires Congress to offset any spending over the set caps, or an automatic sequester would kick in. To pay for his funding surge, Trump plans to target the federal workforce.

“We can also reduce the size of the federal bureaucracy through responsible workforce attrition -- that is, when employees retire, they can be replaced by a smaller number of new employees,” Trump said.

Trump’s plan mirrors one suggested by years by Republicans, most notably through the budgets of current House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis. As House Budget Committee chairman, Ryan suggested cutting the number of federal employees by 10 percent by replacing one out of every three employees who left federal service. He said the plan would save the government $49 billion over 10 years.

In the process of offsetting the defense spending spree, Trump said his administration would “make government leaner and more responsive to the public.” He vowed to make “common-sense reforms that eliminate waste and budget gimmicks.” He also said he would address improper payments, collect unpaid taxes and stop funding expired laws. 

Eric Katz writes about federal agency operations and management. His deep coverage of Veterans Affairs, Homeland Security, the Environmental Protection Agency and U.S. Postal Service has earned him frequent guest spots on national radio and television news programs. Eric joined Government Executive in the summer of 2012 and previously worked for The Financial Times. He is a graduate of The George Washington University.

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