Moran Presses Defense Secretary on Proposals to Cut Federal Employees
Secretary Panetta: “don’t de-trigger sequester on the backs of our civilian workforce”
Washington, DC – At today’s Defense Appropriations Subcommittee hearing on the administration’s FY’13 Defense Budget, Congressman Jim Moran, senior member of the subcommittee, received confirmation from Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta that legislative efforts to cut the federal workforce would have a detrimental effect on national security.
During the hearing, Rep. Moran asked what impact a 5 to 10 percent reduction of the federal civilian workforce would have on the Department of Defense. Secretary Panetta responded “I don't think you [Congress] should de-trigger sequester on the backs of our civilian workforce. I realize that savings could be achieved there, but civilian workforce does perform a very important role for us in terms of support.”
“Secretary Panetta’s statement in today’s hearing underscores the importance of our civilian employees to our national defense,” Rep. Moran said. “Federal employees have already contributed more than $60 billion to deficit reduction. They did not cause our national debt and they should not have to shoulder the full burden of efforts to fix it. I appreciate the Secretary’s insight into of our federal workforce and understanding as to how detrimental some of these proposals could be to our civilian federal employees.”
In December 2011 Rep. Buck McKeon (R-CA) introduced the Down Payment to Protect National Security Act of 2011, H.R. 3662, which would spare the Department of Defense from sequestration, for one year, by reducing the size of the federal civilian workforce by 10 percent over 10 years.
This month, Senator Jon Kyl (R-AZ) introduced companion legislation in the Senate, S. 2065, which would also avoid the impact of automatic spending reductions by extending the existing freeze on federal employee pay for 2013 and reducing the federal workforce by five percent.
As mandated by the Budget Control Act, the Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction, also known as the “Supercommittee,” was tasked with finding $1.2 trillion in savings within the federal government by November 2011. Should the Congress not identify $1.2 trillion in savings by January 2013, automatic spending reductions through sequestration would cut federal spending by $1.2 trillion, including roughly an additional $500 billion from the Defense Department by fiscal year 2021.
Transcript of the exchange between Rep. Moran, Secretary Panetta, DoD Comptroller Robert Hale, and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Martin Dempsey below:
MORAN: Secretary, nice to see you. General, Mr. Hale. Following up on the last line of inquiry, there's a band-aid bill offered by Chairman McKeon and Senator McCain to delay defense sequestration for a year. Would you tell me, Mr. Secretary, by what percent of your civilian workforce or the number of people has been reduced over the last few years? Maybe Mr. Hale would have those numbers?
ROBERT HALE: Well, in this budget, Mr. Moran, they go down about 1 percent to 2 percent, kind of similar to what the military is doing. And in the out-years, there's pretty modest decline right now. I think it's an issue we'll have to look at again. We are trying hard to make some reductions in contractor workforce where that's a cost-effective decision.
HALE: And that's part of the reason there's modest decline, but I do think in the out-years we'll have to look at the mix.
MORAN: I understand. But the bill would reduce federal civilian employment. I understand one of the previous problems costing us money is that we don't have the federal civilian acquisition, procurement personnel, et cetera, that we need to perform those functions. Would reducing your workforce in accordance with this proposed bill actually save money? Or do you think it could possibly jeopardize the mission of the military in important areas?
PANETTA: I think -- frankly, I don't think you should de-trigger sequester on the backs of our civilian workforce. I mean, I realize that savings could be achieved there, but civilian workforce does perform a very important role for us in terms of support. I just think that if we're going to do sequester, we really need to look at all of the areas that, you know, that the president suggested and others have suggested in order to try to de- trigger not just the defense side of the budget, but the domestic side of sequestration.
MORAN: I understand. A number of my colleagues think that reducing the size of the workforce would be the simplest, best way of finding that money, but two-thirds of the civilian federal workforce is actually Defense Department, isn't it?
MORAN: So it's conceivable it could be counterproductive. OK. Thank you.