The Pentagon has implemented a civilian hiring freeze for the office of the secretary of defense (OSD), defense agencies and field activities, Defense News reported Thursday.
The freeze went into effect March 20 as the result of an order from Deputy Defense Secretary Bob Work, and applies to all vacant full-time and part-time, temporary and permanent civilian positions, according to the story.
DOD has been trying to reduce its staffing since a 2013 memo from then-Secretary Chuck Hagel directed major DOD headquarters activities to cut personnel by 20 percent. Last August, Work issued a memo requiring major DOD headquarters activities to plan for a 25 percent reduction in funding for fiscal years 2017 to 2020, effectively extending the earlier cost-cutting initiative.
The freeze also is being spurred by language in the fiscal 2016 omnibus spending package requiring $250 million in cuts to streamline DOD headquarters staffing and improve estimates of the size of its civilian workforce.
In March 22 testimony, Pentagon Comptroller Mike McCord acknowledged the need to trim the number of headquarters employees. “We have instructions, both internal and from the Congress to hold down civilian [jobs] commensurate with draw down in the military, and we recognize that mandate,” McCord said.
During two Senate Armed Services Committee hearings last fall, experts said DOD is getting less bang for its buck. The joint staff has expanded to more than 4,000 employees, the office of the secretary of Defense to 5,000 and the combatant commands have grown to more than 38,000, said Michèle Flournoy, a former DOD undersecretary for policy.
Arnold Punaro, a former Marine Corps major general, called the freeze a “prudent move” but underscored the need for the department to get a handle on a baseline count of its civilian workforce.
“I have argued for years that there should be authorized numbers for OSD, JCS [Joint Chiefs of Staff] and the other HQ elements just like we do for active duty and Guard and reserve end strengths. That is the only true way to control headcount and it would cover all categories, not just defense civilians,” Punaro told Defense News.