As DOD braces for budget cuts, a union leader worries that guidance from the top favors contractors over department employees.
A federal labor union is complaining about a new defense memo that is preparing the department for sequestration, which, leaders believe, hits government employees harder than contractors.
“Cordoning off contractor costs and focusing almost exclusively on cutting just federal employees is bad budget policy,” American Federation of Government Employees National President J. David Cox Sr. said Jan. 11.
“Worse, it will force more extensive cuts in services for each dollar eliminated than if the costs of contractors were subject to the same level of cuts as civilian employees,” he added.
Cox said the memo reveals the Defense Department’s “unapologetic bias” toward contractors, regardless of cost.
Deputy Defense Secretary Ashton Carter released the memo Jan. 10. It navigates military departments through the next three months of fiscal uncertainties and the specter of sequestration. In the memo, the first cut in planning for the longer term is “reduce civilian workforce costs,” by releasing temporary employees, putting a freeze on hiring, authorizing voluntary retirements and, possibly, furloughs. Furloughs could last up to 30 days. The same reductions are the first recommendation under Carter’s near-term actions.
The memo also tells military departments to avoid penalties from contract cancellations, which are added costs.
In a briefing Jan. 10, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said DOD would delay awarding certain contracts.
“In a word, we would be forced to do what I said we should not do with the defense budget, which is to hollow out the defense force of this nation,” Panetta said. He reiterated that these are precautionary measures, and “I very much hope that we will not have to furlough anyone.”
But Cox complained that Carter only requires defense officials to “review contracts and studies for possible cost-savings”—the only contractor-related requirement. He pointed out that DOD has been required by law to do those reviews for several years and get approval for contracts valued at more than $500 million.
For defense officials, Cox suggested giving a one-for-one ratio of cuts. He said, for each dollar saved on the backs of federal employees, officials should cut costs on the contractor’s back.
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