The American Federation of Government Employees and the Professional Services Council had earlier denounced a proposal to cut the Pentagon’s civilian and contractor workforces. Despite that opposition, the legislation’s oblique language indicates those workforces are in for a 5 percent cut over the next four years.
The NDAA calls on the Defense secretary to “ensure that the civilian personnel workforce and service contractor workforce of the Department of Defense are appropriately sized . . . taking into account military personnel and force structure levels.”
A specific reduction is not mentioned in the legislation, but a document accompanying the bill says: “The conferees understand that current [Defense Department] plans call for a 5 percent reduction in military end strength through fiscal year 2017.”
The bill provides some flexibility, saying “the Secretary of Defense may exclude expenses related to the performance of functions identified as core or critical to the mission of the Department.”
Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) said he was “encouraged that some of the changes made give the Department of Defense more flexibility than existed in the original bill. I am confident that [Defense] Secretary [Leon E.] Panetta and his successor will not implement the arbitrary cuts to civil employees.”
Although they were aligned in opposing workforce reductions, the labor and contractor organizations have very different reactions to the legislative agreement.
“AFGE members are deeply disappointed by the inequitable approach taken to workforce management policies,” a union statement said. “Reductions in the civilian workforce should be based on workload analysis, i.e., identifying the functions that should no longer be performed by the Department of Defense (DoD) and then dismissing the relevant personnel. Arbitrary cuts are contrary to law and common sense.”
PSC President and chief executive Stan Soloway looked at the same bill and pronounced his organization “pleased to see common sense has prevailed on the key issues.” Alan Chvotkin, PSC’s executive vice president, said the cuts are “not draconian. I don’t expect significant reductions . . . but we know there will be reductions coming for each of us.”
If it appears the civilian workers and contractors would take the same cut, the AFGE has this reply: “Wrong.”
Citing comments by Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Carl Levin (D-Mich.), the AFGE said spending on contractors has more than doubled since 2000. “Given that most of this explosive growth in service contracting was intended to be short-term, there is no question that contractors should bear a higher percentage of cuts,” the union statement said.