While President Trump wants federal agencies to cut its workforce, the Defense Department has different plans. The DoD is the largest federal agency and in a recent business plan, they said they would grow its civilian workforce.
“DoD’s civilian workforce is in the business of protecting the American way of life, not regulating or governing it,” said the plan. “While it may be appropriate for other federal agencies to reduce their civilian workforce, for the DoD right-sizing will necessitate targeted growth to both restore readiness and increase the lethality, capability, and capacity of our military force.”
The Pentagon sent the Office of Management and Budget a “workforce rationalization plan” in response to the White House’s mandate for reform proposals, which it said marks a “significant shift” in its approach to “workforce sizing, shaping, and structuring”. It moves away from placing “arbitrary caps on civilian staffing levels and depend more on those employees over “needlessly expensive” contractors and borrowing military personnel.
The Department said this plan would reduce costs by cutting contractor services, instead “in-sourcing” that work to the government. They also plan to analyze positions to determine if they can be converted to a lower grade or from military to civilian and reduce management layers across the organization.
Matt Biggs, legislative director for the International Federation of Professional and Technical Engineers, which represents more than 10,000 Defense civilians, said the plan was “very positive” and “a long time coming”.
The American Federation of Government Employees also suggested that spending on the contractor workforce is unaccountable and a threat to civilians. “While it’s certainly good news that the Pentagon has formally recognized civilian employees as essential to readiness, lethality, and sustainment of the all-volunteer force of military,” the union said, “the reality is that a single Pentagon headquarters policy by itself, practically speaking, does little to end the longstanding caps on hiring permanent civilian employees.”
The DoD will use special hiring authority it recently received to improve recruiting efforts.
Overall, the Pentagon is looking to empower all its employees—including the 1.3 million active duty military personnel, 811,000 National Guardsmen and reservists, 750,000 civilians, and more than 600,000 contractors. “The creativity and talent of the military and civilian workforce is our greatest enduring strength, and one we do not take for granted,” the department said.
There is still congressional pressure for the department to cut its workforce. The House recently supported a provision in the Fiscal 2019 National Defense Authorization Act that requires the Pentagon to slash workforce by 25%, although, the measure has yet to receive a vote on the Senate floor.