Are Pentagon Civilians Really Behind the Pentagon’s Money Woes?

Are Pentagon Civilians Really Behind the Pentagon’s Money Woes?

By June 04, 2013On Monday, 25 defense analysts from several think tanks announced that they agree on three areas in U.S. military spending where money can be saved: closing down unnecessary military bases and facilities, reforming military compensation, and shrinking the number of Department of Defense civilian employees.

Justifying the last point, the analysts wrote to the Pentagon‘s civilian leaders and lawmakers on Capitol Hill that:

From 2001 to 2012, the active duty military grew by just 3.4 percent. Yet over the same timeframe the number of civilian defense employees grew by 17 percent, an increase five times greater than the armed forces.

Sounds bad, right? Sounds like the Defense Department’s civilian workforce is out of control? Wrong.

The problem with the analysts’ letter is the baseline they use. They picked the period when the Pentagon’s civilian workforce was the smallest it has been since at least 1981. The number of Pentagon civilians hovered around 1.1 million throughout the 1980s.

During the 1990s, the Defense Department’s civilian workforce shrunk from 1 million in 1990 to 649,000 in 2002, according to White House data. Those 350,000 civilians represented the bulk of federal civilian jobs lost during the 1990s, thanks largely to the Federal Workforce Restructuring Act of 1994, but also to reduced Pentagon expenditures as the Cold War drew to a close. Continue reading “Are Pentagon Civilians Really Behind the Pentagon’s Money Woes?”