Shifting military jobs to civilians would save billions

Shifting military jobs to civilians would save billions

The office that provides budget and economic information to Congress says the military could save a boatload of money if it stopped assigning active-duty personnel to pencil-pushing jobs.

The Congressional Budget Office released a report last week that says the Department of Defense could save $3.1 billion to $5.7 billion a year by turning some 80,000 active-duty military positions into civilian jobs.

The report said the most available numbers indicate there are around 340,000 active-duty military personnel who are assigned to “commercial positions that perform support functions.” The positions include, for example, accounting or health services jobs, and the study postulates that the skills needed for those jobs could be easily and more cheaply found in the private sector.

“To cut costs, DoD could transfer some of those positions to civilian employees and then reduce the number of military personnel accordingly,” the report says.

The report says staffing certain military jobs with civilians would cost about 30 percent less per worker, on average. Those savings would be realized mostly by the absence of training costs active-duty military members carry and lower costs for benefits, retirement and veterans programs.

The report says it would cost an average of $96,000 for civilians to perform the commercial support jobs, while it currently costs $135,200 for active-duty members to do those same jobs. The cost totals include the costs to the DoD, the Veterans Affairs Department, the Treasury, the Office of Personnel Management and the Department of Education.

Aside from cost saving, the report says civilians typically would offer more stability and experience than military counterparts who often change jobs and work locations.

The report says there are some disadvantages of replacing military with civilians, noting that active-duty members often fulfill support jobs on a rotational basis, allowing for breaks in deployments or time spent overseas. Taking support positions from the military would also affect paths for advancement beyond the military, the report says. 

With nearly 12,000 civilian employees, Hill Air Force Base has one of the largest civilian workforces in the DoD. The base has another 3,600 nonfederal civilian and contractor positions. Its active-duty population is just over 4,000.

Civilians make up more than $960 million of Hill’s $1.2 billion total payroll.

In the mid-2000s, Hill was part of a DoD initiative that transferred about 48,000 commercial positions held by military members to civilian employees.

Right now, the base is counting on non-active-duty positions to fill Air Force-wide gaps in F-35 maintenance positions. The 419th Fighter Wing will increase its maintenance manpower next year in the transition to the F-35. The Air Force’s Fiscal Year 2016 budget includes a plan to increase its reserve force by about 2,000 positions, including 925 spots divided among Hill, Luke Air Force Base in Arizona and Tyndall Air Force Base in Florida.

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