Bill would cut workforce to avoid first-year sequestration

A Republican congressman has proposed a new plan that aims to slash 10 percent of the federal workforce to avoid the first year of sequestration cuts to the Defense Department.

Rep. Howard "Buck" McKeon (R-Calif.) introduced Dec. 14 the Down Payment to Protect National Security Act that would reduce one-tenth of the government workforce over 10 years by hiring only one federal employee for every three who retire. The legislation aims to apply the savings to pay for one year of sequestration, for defense and non-defense categories.

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What does sequestration really mean for DOD?

The failure of the so-called supercommittee to identify $1.2 trillion dollars in savings over 10 years triggered automatic sequestration that would cut military funding by $500 billion.

“The troops simply don’t have any more to give,” said McKeon, who also serves as chairman of the House Armed Services Committee. “It is time we address our debt crisis sensibly, by literally shrinking the size of government. At the same time, we will meet our commitment to saving $1.2 trillion over 10 years. That should be enough to persuade the commander in chief to put politics aside and protect our troops.”

One of the bill’s co-sponsors, Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.), said along with attrition and extending the federal pay freeze for another three years, the act could save $234 billion.

“This legislation is another in a long line of pro-defense, common-sense legislation that works to protect our strength and position in the world while making substantive and common-sense cuts to the expanding bureaucracy,” she said.

But the bill, which addresses only the first year of sequestration, is unlikely to get President Barack Obama’s signature. In November, he vowed to veto any measure that would decrease the impact of sequestration.

“There will be no easy off-ramps on this one,” he said then. “We need to keep the pressure up to compromise, not turn off the pressure.”

But those threats fell on deaf ears on some of the Republican lawmakers, who questioned the validity of Obama’s veto pledge. “I cannot conceive of a commander-in-chief threatening to veto a bill that would save the Department of Defense from ruin,” said Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), according to reports.

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Camille Tuutti is a former FCW staff writer who covered federal oversight and the workforce.

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Reader comments

Fri, Dec 23, 2011 Mike

I tend to agree with Erich Darr's comment below. By the way, I've got pay-banding civil servants, GS civil servants and contractors to rate-on/write monthly reports...and we need all of them for daily operations, let alone ongoing and impending projects. We've got additional duties and already put in the time...just to try and keep up. CAC reader at home, Blackberry, long work days, eat lunch at desk while working...this is today's theme. We're already stretched, stressed, etc. I don't see how you can cut more (e.g. broadly across the board). Each situation should be evaluated independently for potential cuts/savings/efficiency. Some of us also donate annual leave each year because we couldn't or chose not to utilize it due to work-load. Sick leave piles-up (can't donate), yet I can't remember when I last took sick leave (years ago?)...or maybe for one or two doctor's appointments per year (usually just an hour or so, then get back to the office). Many things can't be delegated, therefore a smaller amount of employees/supervisors/experts are suddenly becoming 'essential' without anyone even recognizing this fact. Process-mapping; paying analysts to 'discover' problems and new ways to address them; this can also be a waste of time and money (a.k.a. Rand, etc.).

Thu, Dec 22, 2011 Robert

But try and tell a Congressman how many staffers he can have rather than letting him mange to an office budget and then listen to the screams. I am constantly amazed at the lack of wisdom displayed by Congressmen.

Thu, Dec 22, 2011 Contractor

I really want to weep for the 3 federal workers who "oversee" 30 contractors. Clearly the writer has never had to supervise employees in the private sector. It's quite possible that one supervisor will keep tabs on 30 employees. So I guess, losing one of those 3 would mean that the ratio would be 1:15. If you write a decent contract, and treat contractors with respect, and work well with the contractor project manager, I'm sure your horrendous tasks will seem lighter. Just remember, those contractors are laid off once the contract ends...but you go on, and on, and on with all your benefits. So sad.

Thu, Dec 22, 2011 Erich Darr

You can't replace CS leaving the government using 1 hire for every 3 that leave across the board. You will end up with offices that don't have sufficient personnel to carry out their mission. Any cuts need to be managed. Managment needs to determine where cuts can be made. Thery're responsible for getting the job done. So it's their function.

Thu, Dec 22, 2011 RB CA

(1) Anybody do the math? His numbers don't add up. If the census data is correct, cuts in non-defense areas will need to be closer to 13.5% (~284,000 personnel), slashing payroll about $18B/yr. Over ten years -- if all 284,000 quit immediately, the savings will only be about $180B. Unless he's factoring in no pay raises for the next ten years.....(2) And the contractors who replace us will cost how much? (3) How many contractors will be attrited in the next 10 years?

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