Culture change needed to address military staffing shortage
The Defense Department is working to recruit more civilians to fill current civilian positions that were closed in response to the end of the combat mission in Afghanistan.
But the military services that traditionally have filled those jobs, like the Army, Navy and Air Force, are being replaced by civilians.
The Army is closing eight “forward operating locations” and plans to downsize or eliminate 22 combat outposts. The Air Force is closing seven B-52 and 18 B-1B bombers in the U.S. and overseas. The Navy is closing its Navy Carrier Strike Group 12. And the Marine Corps is closing four Navy fast-attack craft in Okinawa.
Those moves leave the military with a total of 7,000 total civilian employees, according to the Associated Press (AP).
The closures are part of a wider effort to cut military spending as the U.S. government increasingly relies on commercial contractors to do much of its work. The Pentagon’s base budget is going up.
In April, Defense Secretary Robert Gates told Congress he planned to cut the overall military budget in half over the next seven years, from about $600 billion to $350 billion a decade from now.
Gates’ plan calls for the Navy’s carrier fleet to be reduced from six to five by 2012. Two of the ships would be retired to free up space on ships being modified. The Pentagon must find $20 billion in savings by 2013.
But the Navy says the cuts can be done without cutting the overall number of sailors and crew members.
AP reports that there are more civilian employees serving in units that are shrinking. For example, the Air Force has announced a 2.6 percent pay cut, effective July 1, for about 2,300 air crew members.
The Army is using a contractor to handle its new civilian staff in Washington, D.C. The contractor, Pinnacle Consulting Inc., plans to create and support new civilian employees, but cannot keep them on the payroll since military personnel would replace them.
Congress’ Joint Chiefs of Staff issued a report last week that calls for civilian staffing of military installations.
The report notes that a senior Air Force officer said “it has become increasingly difficult for the Air Force to fill all required Air Force mission responsibilities and the Air Force is seeing fewer personnel with the requisite technical and leadership skills to support the Air Force mission.”
The report quotes Gen. Gene Renuart of the Air Force