The Washington Post

Sen. Cardin amendment would nix specified defense cuts to civilians and contractors

Democratic Sen. Ben Cardin of Maryland wants to scrap an amendment Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) added to the Senate’s 2013 National Defense Authorization bill that would require a specific level of cuts for the Defense Department’s civilian and contract workforce.

(Jose Luis Magana — AP)

Cardin Wednesday introduced an amendment that would remove that language — found in Section 341 — from the bill. He claims the cuts would be arbitrary and “draconian,” leading to the elimination of 36,000 civilian jobs and tens of thousands of Defense contractor jobs between 2013 and 2017.

The Maryland Democrat said his amendment, which is co-sponsored by seven other Senate Democrats, calls for the Secretary of Defense to be “consistent with longstanding law that ensures the civilian workforce is ‘sufficiently sized’ after taking into account military strategy requirements and military end-strength.”

“A slash-and-burn approach to downsizing the civilian and contractor workforce is contrary to current law and runs the risk of undermining our military mission and national security,” Cardin said in a statement. “The DoD has already announced plans to downsize its civilian and contractor workforce, but it is being done in accordance with law and with consideration to mission and workload mission.”

Cardin added that the proposed cuts are “unlawful, ill-advised and could leave our nation vulnerable.”

McCain’s office noted that the Senate armed services committee approved the overall personnel reduction strategy unanimously and that the 5 percent cut over five years matches the Defense Department’s proposed cuts for military personnel.

McCain spokesman Brian Rogers said:“Sen. McCain believes that, with the country facing a devastating fiscal cliff, huge annual deficits and rising federal debt, and with our military personnel deployed overseas in harm’s way, the civilian workforce can absorb a modest reduction as a reasonable cost-cutting and efficiency measure.”

The Obama administration objected to Section 314 of the proposed Defense Authorization Act on Thursday, saying in a statement that “the size of the civilian workforce should be determined based on workload and funding, not on arbitrary comparisons to the military.” 

The American Federation of Government Employees today released a statement supporting Cardin’s proposal to remove Section 314 from the bill. 

For more Federal Eye, visit PostPolitics and The Fed Page.

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Josh Hicks covers Maryland politics and government. He previously anchored the Post’s Federal Eye blog, focusing on federal accountability and workforce issues.

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