Some Defense civilians likely to lose jobs, with or without sequestration

Defense Secretary Leon Panetta has said Congress should not be so quick to cut Defense jobs solely to avoid sequestration. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta has said Congress should not be so quick to cut Defense jobs solely to avoid sequestration. Evan Vucci/AP

Looming budget cuts will almost certainly lead to a reduction in the Defense Department’s civilian workforce, according to a Politico report.

As Congress looks to avoid sequestration -- automatic budget cuts that are set to kick in Jan. 2, 2013 -- rival plans have emerged from the two chambers of Congress that share a common thread: decreasing the number of civilian employees at Defense.

“It is almost certain the number of DoD civilians will be cut significantly, whether sequestration happens or not,” Todd Harrison, a defense analyst at the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments, told Politico. “Even if Congress finds a way to avoid sequestration, the way they avoid it will probably include cuts to the entire federal workforce.”

In the House, Armed Services Committee Chairman Rep. Buck McKeon, R-Calif., has proposed a plan to delay sequestration by one year while reducing the total number of federal employees by 10 percent over the next 10 years. On the Senate side, Armed Services Committee Chairman Carl Levin, D-Mich., and ranking member John McCain, R-Ariz., have proposed a plan that would shrink the Defense Department’s civilian and contractor employees by 5 percent over the next five years. The provision, a part of the Senate Defense authorization bill, was reported out of committee in June.

Lawmakers have raised concerns over the Senate plan, saying the cuts in federal workers would simply lead to more contractors.

“These gimmicks are causing mass layoffs of civilian employees, but they aren’t actually saving any money,” Rep Maurice Hinchey, D-N.Y., said in a statement to Politico. “Because of the arbitrary standards set by the Pentagon, civilian employees are being fired, and private contractors that charge more for the exact same service and are less accountable to the public are being hired.”

Defense Secretary Leon Panetta has said Congress should not be so quick to cut Pentagon jobs solely to avoid sequestration.

“Frankly, I don’t think you should detrigger sequester on the backs of our civilian workforce,” he said at a House Appropriations Committee hearing. “I realize that savings could be achieved there, but [the] civilian workforce does perform a very important role for us in terms of support.”

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