House Spending Bill Seeks to ‘Optimize’ Employment Levels at DoD

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Arlington VA, Pentagon South Lot: The bill eyes new technologies to replace civilian workers and would allow DoD to restart outsourcing studies. Image: Ritu Manoj Jethani/Shutterstock.com

A spending bill for DoD up for voting in the House this week seeks to “optimize” civilian employment at the department through steps including “adoption of emerging technologies and business process improvements” such as AI and robotic process automation.

The bill, passed with only Republican votes through the Appropriations Committee, would cut nearly $1 billion from the budget request for the civilian workforce; shipyard, depot, mental health and sexual assault and response positions would be exempt, a committee report says. The measure does not spell out a potential impact on employment at the government’s largest department, although an assessment by committee Democrats said it would result in “cutting vital civilian positions.”

The report notes that under prior law, DoD is assessing its civilian workforce to determine “whether the total force manpower is properly sized for the Department’s core missions, tasks, and functions. Equally important will be the Department’s goals and success criteria for adoption of emerging technologies and business process improvements.”

Adoption of new technologies “can significantly reduce the manually intensive administrative workload that plagues the Department’s business operations and frustrates its workforce. The efficiencies gained may be applied toward increasing manning in critical fields such as data science and systems engineering or applied towards key readiness priorities,” it says.

“Further, the Committee notes that the Department made a concerted effort in the fiscal year 2025 President’s budget request to restrain growth in civilian pay and right-size its civilian workforce. As the Committee works with the Department on this effort, it will continue to closely scrutinize the President’s budget request for civilian pay,” it says.

The White House opposes the provision, saying in a statement that “This reduction would degrade the Department’s ability to execute its mission and operations, adversely impact readiness, and negatively affect civilian recruitment and retention, a vital piece of the total force . . . The level proposed by the bill, compounding the effects of the FY 2024 enacted level against the civilian workforce, would result in an untenable gap in mission support as DOD seeks to execute increasing statutory and real-world requirements and workload.”

Other provisions would prohibit the use of funds for: paid leave and travel or related expenses of a federal employee or their dependents for the purposes of obtaining an abortion or abortion-related services; DEIA initiatives; or reinstating a COVID-19 vaccination mandate.

The bill further would allow DoD to again conduct “Circular A-76” studies comparing the costs of in-house work with contractor bids for commercial-type work that can lead to privatizing such work. That is contrary to language in a separate general government spending bill not yet scheduled for a House floor vote, which would keep in place a longstanding ban against such studies.

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