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Pentagon could cut 6K jobs next year

| Saturday, Aug. 24, 2013, 6:30 p.m.

The Defense Department may have to fire at least 6,272 civilian employees if automatic cuts known as sequestration slice $52 billion from its fiscal 2014 budget, according to a Pentagon planning document.

Additional budget analysis is “likely to produce further reductions” as the services focus on shrinking their contract labor forces, according to a Pentagon “execution plan” obtained by Bloomberg News. The job cuts, although less than 1 percent of the non-uniformed workforce, would mark an escalation from the unpaid leave mandated under sequestration in the current fiscal year.

The services should expect a $475 billion budget after sequestration cuts for the fiscal year that starts Oct. 1, almost 10 percent less than the pending $526.6 billion request, according to the document dated Aug. 1. Sequestration would result in 16 percent reductions in the Pentagon's procurement and research spending and 12 percent cuts in operations, maintenance and military construction.

For the most part, major weapons programs aren't being targeted for extensive reductions, according to the plan, which was a presentation by Pentagon budget and cost-assessment officials for generals and admirals who oversee force structure and resources for their respective services.

It offers more detail than previously disclosed about the potential impact of cuts on fiscal 2014 spending. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel, in a July 10 letter to Congress, gave a broad picture of “abrupt, deep” cuts to the military.

The planning document is stamped “Draft/Pre-Decisional” and said no final decisions have been made.

Jennifer Elzea, a spokeswoman for the Pentagon comptroller, said in an e-mailed statement that she “cannot provide comment on pre-decisional documents.”

To accommodate this year's $37 billion in sequestration cuts, the Pentagon required 85 percent of its civilian workers to each take about six days of unpaid furloughs. “No service is planning fiscal 2014 furloughs,” the plan said. Instead, the department is preparing for dismissals, known euphemistically as “reductions in force,” or RIFs.

“Realistically, it is difficult to execute a RIF in fiscal 2014 without starting immediately,” with some of the necessary paperwork submitted no later than Sept. 15, it said.

The Army would lose more than 2,100 workers from a 263,900-person civilian workforce, and the Navy would cut as many as 2,672 of 214,000 people. Department-wide agencies would dismiss 1,500 people from a projected 137,000-person force, with most coming from the Defense Contract Management Agency.

The Air Force “will require targeted” reductions to its planned 185,400-person civilian workforce, though the number hasn't yet been determined, according to the document. The Army would also release 1,000 contractors.

Firings, if they occur, will result in a “significant skill-set mismatch and degradation in morale,” it said.

If sequestration continues into fiscal 2015, according to the plan, the Pentagon would need congressional help to increase “enhanced selective early retirement” and improve voluntary retirement incentives and selective early departure dates.

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