Proposal aims to offset costs of sequestration through staff reductions

Bill would downsize the federal workforce by 10 percent and use the savings to counteract one year of defense and nondefense spending cuts.

House Armed Services Committee Chairman Rep. Howard "Buck" McKeon, R-Calif., has proposed legislation that would reduce the number of federal employees by 10 percent through attrition to offset spending cuts forced by sequestration in fiscal 2013.

The Down Payment to Protect National Security Act would cut the federal workforce by 10 percent over the next 10 years through attrition and apply those savings toward one year of spending cuts imposed by sequestration, including both defense and nondefense spending, according to a statement from McKeon.

He proposed achieving the reduction by hiring one federal worker for every three who retire. The proposal comes as lawmakers in both chambers look for ways to offset the effects of the $500 billion in cuts to military spending the Pentagon faces as a result of the deficit super committee's failure in November to find $1.2 trillion in savings.

"It is time we address our debt crisis sensibly, by literally shrinking the size of government," McKeon said in a statement. "At the same time, we will meet our commitment to saving $1.2 trillion over 10 years."

He estimated the proposal would save $127 billion as a down payment on national security spending: $55 billion in savings available specifically to offset defense cuts as a result of sequestration in fiscal 2013, another $55 billion to cover the nondefense cuts required and $17 billion for deficit reduction.

National Treasury Employees Union President Colleen M. Kelley called the legislation "misguided."

"Every day, federal employees guard our borders, protect our food supply, safeguard our nuclear plants, assist taxpayers and complete vital tasks for the American people," Kelley said in a statement. "This bill would undercut their important work and endanger the public."

The bill, known as H.R. 3662, has been referred to the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, which approved a similar bill in November that would reduce the federal workforce through attrition by 10 percent over the next three years.

That bill would shrink the workforce across-the-board by 10 percent by 2015, and calls for one federal employee to replace every three workers who retire or leave their job. The measure passed by a 23-14 vote.

The oversight panel-approved bill makes exceptions for some national security concerns or any event that threatens public health or safety, and includes a provision limiting procurement on service contracts to supplement the reduced workforce. The bill's sponsor, Rep. Mick Mulvaney, R-S.C., estimates the legislation will save $139 billion over the next decade.

A group of Senate Republicans also held a press conference earlier this week to announce that they planned to introduce a similar measure. A spokesman for Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., said the specific legislation would be introduced next month.

The aim of the press conference "was to announce a broader effort to replace the sequester with other cuts," McCain's spokesman said.

President Obama has threatened to veto bills that stop sequestration without reducing the deficit by $1.2 trillion.