White House Opposes Defense Bill Language Mandating Headquarters Downsizing

Language in the House version of the fiscal 2016 defense authorization bill requiring DOD to trim its headquarters budgets and personnel by 20 percent over five years garnered a strong objection from the Office of Management and Budget (OMB), which claimed the provision was unnecessary.

The bill stipulates that the streamlining initiative generate $10 billion in savings and calls for the department to prepare an accurate baseline accounting of defense headquarters budgets and personnel, and detailed information on planned reductions in management headquarters.

The department, however, already is carrying out a plan to reduce headquarters personnel, according to OMB’s “Statement of Administration Policy” issued Tuesday for H.R. 1735. That effort should be implemented by FY 2019, but has projected savings of only $5.3 billion.

OMB also said the proposed language is “overly restrictive” because it targets the national capital region and exempts DOD civilians whose salaries are funded through the defense working capital fund, which collects funding through user fees. “This could have a profound impact on personnel and cause arbitrary across-the-board cuts,” the agency said.

The bill would preclude the department from slashing personnel through a superficial accounting exercise.

“Any reduction in personnel should not be implemented as an across-the-board cut, but rather should be strategically designed to retain critical functions, capabilities, and skill sets — including but not limited to depots and the acquisition workforce — and eliminate unnecessary or redundant functions or skill sets that do not benefit or support mission requirements,” the legislation states.

The Pentagon also cannot claim savings by moving employees or responsibilities to other sections within the agency, reported Federal Times.

“Such reductions shall be strategically designed to retain critical functions, capabilities, and skill sets. Management, functions, programs, or offices shall be moved to the lowest appropriate organizational level,” according to the bill.

The headquarters streamlining language was one of dozens of provisions the administration objected to that collectively triggered a veto threat from the White House.

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