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Union decries proposed DoD civilian cuts

Mar. 18, 2014 - 06:00AM   |  
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Officials from largest federal employee union are blasting a California congressman’s plans to cut more than 115,000 defense civilian jobs over the next six years, calling it expensive and dangerous.

The plan, introduced by Republican Rep. Ken Calvert, would trim the Defense Department’s civilian workforce by 15 percent by 2020. The department now has roughly 775,000 non-military employees.

Calvert introduced the plan last week in response to Pentagon plans to cut Army and Marine Corps end strength in coming years to rein in military spending. Calvert said those cuts are on “the wrong side” of DoD and that the civilian workforce, “if left unchecked, will negatively impact our men and women in uniform.”

But members of the American Federation of Government Employees are pushing back against that, saying that cutting civilian employees will result in more contract work and weaker overall readiness.

“Rather than letting [DoD] decide who should be doing the work, Rep. Calvert’s legislation would hamstring the department into using more costly contractors and military personnel,” AFGE President J. David Cox Sr. said in a statement. “It’s an irresponsible excuse at governing that will only leave the country more in debt.”

The number of defense employees is already scheduled to shrink in the near future. Last year, Congress passed plans to trim the number of civilian workers by the same percentage as planned military drawdowns.

That should translate into about 40,000 fewer non-military jobs by 2017.

But Calvert has argued that isn’t enough.

He noted that from 2001 to 2012, the size of the active-duty military grew by less than 4 percent but the civilian defense workforce grew by 17 percent. He estimated his proposed cuts could generate more than $82 billion in savings, money that could be reinvested in military end strength and modernization funds.

"There's no doubt reducing costs forces us to make difficult decisions,” Calvert said on Monday. “I'd rather that we bring down costs responsibly through civilian attrition and performance-based decisions instead of on the backs of our war fighters."

But AFGE officials said those savings estimates are flawed because the work handled by the eliminated employees would have to be done by contractors or military personnel.

“This bill would undermine DoD’s ability to perform its mission and drive up costs to untold levels,” Cox said.

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