Working with AFGE, Bipartisan Coalition Beats GOP DOD Civilian Workers Cut Scheme

WASHINGTON –Working with the American Federation of Government Employees, a bipartisan coalition of lawmakers defeated a Right Wing Republican’s scheme to substitute contractors for thousands of Defense Department civilian workers.

During House debate on May 22 on DOD’s legislation for the year starting Oct. 1, Rep. Lynn Jenkins, R-Kansas, tried to “place a moratorium on insourcing previously contracted activities” at the agency.  She argued that competition between civilian defense workers and private firms is unfair to the private companies.  She lost, on a bipartisan vote.

In 2009, the House voted to let DOD insource activities if using federal civilian workers is cheaper.  Jenkins wanted outsourcing.  AFGE represents thousands of the workers.

“Some lawmakers are using sequestration” – GOP-mandated defense budget limits – “as a pretext to slash the number of civilian employees, portraying them as overpaid, Washington, D.C., paper-pushers who contribute little to national security.  The size of the civilian workforce must be slashed, they insist, to pay for modernization and readiness,” the bipartisan coalition of lawmakers, led by Rep. Tom Cole, R-Okla., wrote their colleagues.

“In fact, only 6,000 civilian employees work in the Pentagon.  More than 80% of civilian employees work outside of the National Capital Region, and across the nation.  Almost one-half of civilian employees are veterans, and these men and women are as proud of their civil service as their military service.

“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.  Quite simply, DoD could not perform its mission without its experienced and dedicated civilian workforce…Civilian employees provide vital education and training, family support, and health care services.  Slashing the civilian workforce does not promote increased readiness and reduce the cost of modernization because civilian employees are already largely responsible for such functions,” their letter, one of three, said.

Lawmakers also said DOD itself found that its civilian workers cost less than hiring contractors – and that relying on the contractors in many cases could impair national security.

“This would prohibit the insourcing of contracted services, even when it would make sense for the taxpayer and would save money,” Rep. Austin Scott, R-Ga., told his colleagues “By disrupting the department’s management practice, this amendment would impair military readiness.  The department did not ask  for this proposed change, and it is against” it.

“This overrides every other law, managing the defense workload by prohibiting the transfer of the workload from the private to the public sector, even when the public sector can do it better and cheaper,” Cole said.  “That, in my view, is inefficient, it is counterproductive, and ultimately it is unfair.  We should allow the work to flow to those best able to complete it, and we should rely on the services to actually make the decisions in this regard.”

-PAI