Lawmaker wants to cut Defense 'paper pushers'

A Republican lawmaker wants the Pentagon to cut the number of civilian workers it employs in order to preserve more active-duty troops.

Rep. Ken Calvert (R-Calif.), a member of the Defense Appropriations Subcommittee and the House Budget Committee, has introduced a bill to require the Pentagon to reduce its 770,000 civilian workforce by 15 percent in the next five years.

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"Our uniformed personnel continue to absorb cuts while the secretary of Defense ignores a significant portion of his budget that has continue to grow without restraint — the Defense Department's civilian workforce," he wrote in a recent op-ed.

Calvert's bill, dubbed the REDUCE Act, would save $82.5 billion over the first five years, he said.

According to Calvert, between 2001 and 2012, the active-duty military grew by 3.4 percent, while the number of defense employees grew by 17 percent.

There are currently 1.3 million service members and 770,000 civilian personnel — a 1.79 ratio, he said.

Since 2009, the civilian staff for the Office of the Secretary of Defense (OSD) has grown by nearly 18 percent, and 230 percent for the Joint Staff, he wrote.

In December, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said he would cut 200 positions from OSD over the next five years, to save about $1 billion.

But Calvert recommends more cuts using voluntary separation incentive payments and voluntary early retirement payments to achieve the required reductions, and would allow the Defense secretary to make decisions by performance.

Calvert said he suspects that the increase of personnel has occurred to a "greater degree with paper pushers at the Pentagon, as opposed to wrench-turners at our depots."

Calvert said "it is commonly known that it is almost impossible to fire a civilian worker for subpar performance."

"In fact, it is easier to reduce the responsibilities of an ineffective civilian worker and bring in a uniformed member of the military to do the job," he wrote. "U.S. taxpayers are essentially paying two people for one job, along with all the benefits that a federal job conveys."

"At a time when our military presence, and projection of power, is sorely needed in the world, we cannot risk further cuts to our uniformed personnel while the Defense civilian workforce remains untouched," he wrote.