The Defense Department is planning to cut its civilian workforce by about 5 percent to 6 percent — between 40,000 and 50,000 positions — by the end of 2018, Defense Comptroller Robert Hale said Wednesday.
The department estimates it will have roughly 777,000 civilian employees at the end of fiscal 2013, and it will cut their ranks to about 765,000 next year, he said.
Many of the civilian cuts would be tied to a future round of base closures, which Hale said would allow Defense to consolidate its underutilized infrastructure.
The White House's proposed 2014 budget calls for another Base Realignment and Closure round in 2015, although it said the process of closing bases would not begin until 2016 to allow the economy more time to recover.
The Pentagon also plans to consolidate military health care facilities as part of a broader restructuring, which Hale said would also allow it to cut its civilian ranks. The planned end of the war in Afghanistan will also allow Defense to reduce its civilian ranks.
“I would hope that given the time to prepare, that we could do this through attrition,” Hale said. “But we aren't far along enough to really know for sure as to how we'd do it.”
The Defense Department may offer early retirements to civilians and temporarily suspend hiring to reduce their ranks.
The department's proposed $655.4 billion topline budget — a 5 percent reduction from fiscal 2012 levels — includes $167 billion for weapons systems. Defense wants to spend $8.4 billion to continue the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter program and $5.4 billion for the Virginia-class submarine. The budget also calls for upgrading the C-130 transport aircraft, the F-15 fighter, and the Stryker combat vehicle. Defense also wants to spend $653 million on advanced communication satellites.
Zachary Fryer-Biggs contributed to this story.