Defense Department file photo

Republican Lawmakers Again Propose Slashing 115,000 Civilian Defense Jobs

Bill would target both rank-and-file and senior execs at the Pentagon.

A group of Republican lawmakers has once again proposed slashing the civilian workforce at the Defense Department by 15 percent, a move they estimate will save $82.5 billion over five years.

The Rebalance for an Effective Defense Uniform and Civilian Employees (REDUCE) Act would cut more than 115,000 jobs from the department, decreasing the current 770,000-person workforce down to about 655,000. The Pentagon would have to reach the new employee cap by fiscal 2022 and sustain it for at least five years. Rep. Kevin Calvert, R-Calif., introduced nearly identical legislation in the last Congress.

“A critical component of our national security strategy is the proper allocation of scarce federal resources,” Calvert said. “The continued growth in our civilian staff at the DoD comes at a time when we are reducing the number of active-duty military personnel -- something is clearly wrong with that equation.”

He added that “if we fail to correct this trend our uniformed soldiers, not to mention American taxpayers, will suffer the consequences.”

Calvert said his measure was necessary to rein in a Defense bureaucracy that has grown out of control, citing a 15 percent spike in civilian staff since fiscal 2001. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel has already demanded significant staff cuts moving forward in response to sequestration-induced budget caps. Hagel said he would cut hundreds of positions from his own office, and Defense officials have estimated the department plans to slash 40,000 civilian jobs in the coming years.

The Army, Navy and Air Force have already begun offering buyout and early retirement incentives, as well as mandatory reductions in force, for both military and civilian personnel, though Calvert said those initiatives have focused too heavily on the military side.

The bill would also dramatically slash the agency’s Senior Executive Service, capping the number of top-level managers at 1,000 from fiscal 2022 through fiscal 2026. Defense currently employs more than 1,200 senior executives, according to Office of Personnel Management data, meaning the Pentagon would have to cut about 17 percent of SESers.

Calvert, along with the bill’s six cosponsors, proposed granting Defense the authority to use voluntary separation incentives to reach the employee limits, as well as requiring more weight for job performance instead of tenure when implementing reductions in force.

The Republican lawmaker said he consulted with former military officials, as well as the Defense Business Board, to reach the staffing levels put forward in the legislation. Calvert offered muted praise for Defense’s civilian employees, but said there are simply too many of them.

“Many of our civilians at the Pentagon and around the world do a fine job, but their growth is unsustainable,” he said.