House members: Don't slash DOD's civilians

A bipartisan group of lawmakers in the House is rallying support for protecting the Pentagon's civilian workforce from budget cuts.

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In a pair of “Dear Colleague” letters delivered last week, the group charges that some lawmakers are using the across-the-board budget cuts known as sequestration as a “pretext to slash the number of a civilian employees, portraying them as overpaid, Washington, D.C., paper-pushers who contribute little to national security” that must be scaled back to pay for weapons modernization and troop readiness. [READ THE LETTERS.]

“Cutting civilian personnel, and lumping all civilians together to take a 15 percent cut, for instance, demonstrates a lack of understanding of DOD’s missions and the kind of work necessary to meet those requirements,” according to lawmakers.

The missives come as the House Appropriations Defense subcommittee is set to mark up its fiscal 2015 spending bill on Friday behind closed doors. The letters were signed by Reps. Tom Cole (R-Okla.), Jim Moran (D-Va.) Rob Bishop (R-Utah), Dave Loebsack (D-Iowa), Austin Scott (R-Ga.), Derek Kilmer (D-Wash.), Frank Wolf (R-Va.) and Matt Cartwright (D-Pa.).

The coalition argues only 6,000 civilian employees inhabit the Pentagon, while more than 80 percent of the workforce is stationed throughout the country.

“More specifically, 275,000 civilians perform essential and important functions including but not limited to logistics and force management; systems acquisition, test and evaluation, engineering and contracting,” one letter states. “Quite simply, DoD could not perform its mission without its experienced and dedicated civilian workforce.”

The members acknowledge that DOD's civilian workforce grew from 687,000 in 2001 to 807,000 in 2011, but cite a report by the Pentagon comptroller who concluded the move saved the agency money by not filling those positions with military or contract employees, and that approximately 20,000 of those posts were created to supervise contractors.

The lawmakers also point out that the Senate in 2012 noted that civilian personnel costs have held relatively steady over the past decade while spending on service contracts has doubled to more than $150 billion.

“It is not clear whether the Department will be able to enforce comparable cuts in the contractor workforce,” according to the other letter.

The group says cutting civilian employees is not a “solution for our country’s budgetary woes” and asks members to focus on the “real drivers” behind the fiscal constraints.

“Sequestration threatens our national security — it is the enemy,” they say.