The AFGE union has asked Congress to retain longstanding language in DoD budget measures on the civilian workforce there, saying that a change proposed by the White House “opens the door to arbitrary reductions.”
The union’s letters to the Appropriations committees of the House and Senate—which are beginning to draft budget bills for the fiscal year starting October 1—represent a rare break between a federal union and the Biden administration.
At issue is traditional language stating that management of civilian DoD employees “shall not be subject to any constraint or limitation in terms of man years, end strength, full-time equivalent positions, or maximum number of employees.” The budget proposal issued earlier this year seeks to change that to say civilian personnel levels may not be managed “solely” on those bases.
That “strongly suggests that the civilian workforce is, in fact, to be managed primarily or in large measure on the basis of arbitrary constraints or limitations on the number of employees. This completely changes the meaning of the provision and renders it ridiculous,” AFGE said in its letter.
The union noted that the administration’s first budget proposal last year did not include such language and that this year’s version further doesn’t contain a traditional a section “describing what the civilian workforce does as part of the total force, and its contributions to readiness, lethality, and operational effectiveness.”
“This omission and vacuum on the civilian workforce has greatly impacted the course of oversight hearings by the authorizers and appropriators, where most of the attention has been focused on increasing spending on weapon systems and defense contractors,” it said.