Defense Comptroller Robert Hale said the Defense Department will shed between 40,000 and 50,000 positions, about 5 to 6 percent of its total staffing levels, by the end of 2018. (Chris Maddaloni / Staff file photo)
The Defense Department would cut civilian staffs by about 12,200 in fiscal 2014 under the administration’s proposed budget, kicking off an expected five-year cycle of significant staffing cuts.
By the end of 2018, Defense Comptroller Robert Hale said last week, Defense will shed between 40,000 and 50,000 positions, about 5 to 6 percent of its total staffing levels. Defense has about 777,200 civilian employees this year.
But overall, the government’s 2.1 million workforce would grow under the White House plan. The executive branch plans to add a net 6,180 employees next year, a 0.3 percent increase over 2013.
The Treasury Department would see one of the biggest staffing increases: 5.2 percent, or 5,600 employees. Much of that increase would come at the IRS, which would get a 6,361-person staffing increase to bring its ranks to 96,930. Other Treasury agencies would see only small staffing increases, or cuts.
The Veterans Affairs Department would grow as well — by 2.6 percent, or 8,200 employees — bringing it to 319,300 personnel.
The Department of Homeland Security’s staff would go up by 900, bringing its ranks to 191,000. This includes a proposed increase of 1,600 new Customs and Border Protection officers. Other DHS agencies, such as the Transportation Security Administration, Federal Air Marshals Service, Immigration and Customs Enforcement, and Coast Guard, would face staffing cuts.
DHS said the new CBP officers — along with more mobile inspection equipment — will speed up processing and inspecting of passengers and cargo at ports of entry, and increase seizures of drugs, guns, counterfeit goods and other illegal items. DHS is requesting $221 million for the increased CBP staffing and inspection equipment.
But other agencies are facing staffing cuts. The General Services Administration would go from 12,800 to 12,500 — a 2.3 percent decline. And the Agriculture Department would lose 1,700 employees, or 1.8 percent of its 2013 staff, bringing its staffing levels to 90,700 in 2014.
The Defense staffing cuts over the next five years indicate a sea change is beginning at the federal government’s largest agency.
Hale said many of Defense’s civilian cuts would be tied to a future round of base closures, which he said would allow Defense to consolidate its underused infrastructure. The White House’s proposed budget calls for another Base Realignment and Closure round in 2015, although it said actual base closings would wait until 2016 to allow the economy more time to recover.
The Pentagon also plans to consolidate military health care facilities as part of a broader restructuring. Hale said that also would result in civilian staffing cuts. And the planned end of the war in Afghanistan will allow Defense to further reduce its civilian ranks.
“I would hope that given the time to prepare, that we could do this through attrition,” Hale said. “But we aren’t far along enough to really know for sure as to how we’d do it.”
Defense may offer early retirements and temporarily suspend hiring to reduce the ranks.
Zachary Fryer-Biggs contributed to this story.