The Air Force is likely to cut its civilian workforce in 2016, the service said Wednesday in a news release Wednesday.
"In a continuing effort to meet Defense Department funding targets and rebalance the civilian workforce, some Air Force installations will implement civilian reduction in force authorities effective through April 4," a Pentagon statement said.
An assessment in August identified that the service had 1,000 civilian "overages" at 48 installations.
"Voluntary efforts to balance the civilian workforce since fiscal year 2014 have moved us significantly closer to our target manning levels," said Lt. Gen. Gina Grosso, the deputy chief of staff for manpower, personnel and services. "We have reduced the number of affected employees through several rounds of voluntary separation and retirement programs as well as reassignments to vacant positions."
The Air Force is also attempting to reassign civilians to other positions, which could mean include a drop in grade for some.
"The remaining employees will be offered registration in the DoD Priority Placement Program and receive consideration for future vacancies according to their registration," the release said.
The leader of the largest federal employee union called the move a mistake, and said it would force the Air Force to rely on more costly contractors, or reassign active duty airmen to do the work instead.
"Those employees left behind will be asked to do more with less, but that will go only so far," said J. David Cox Sr., president of the American Federation of Government Employees. "These cuts will force the Air Force to rely on more costly contractors and military personnel to do work that civilian employees can do for two to three times less...If the goal is to increase costs to taxpayers while eroding our military readiness, the Air Force will certainly succeed."
Debra Warner, director of civilian force management policy, said that "the Air Force recognizes and strives to balance the invaluable contributions of our civilian workforce with the fiscal realities under which the DoD and the government as a whole are operating."
Under a plan submitted to Congress in February, the Defense Department is attempting to bring the total civilian workforce — minus exclusions for certain positions — from 238,000 in 2012 to 221,000 by 2017, according to Federal Times, a sister publication of Air Force Times.
Ever since Congress mandated cuts in spending with the 2013 National Defense Authorization Act, the Pentagon has been trying to have civilian reductions match similar reductions to military personnel — about 7 percent since 2012, Federal Times said.
The Government Accountability Office, Congress' top watchdog, noted in a 2015 report that "at a time when the entire federal government is facing fiscal challenges that are likely to continue, DoD must plan strategically for reductions to its civilian and contractor workforces to achieve savings."
"Fully meeting all of the requirements of [the NDAA provision] would be a step in the right direction in this regard and would provide Congress with assurance that the department is making progress," the GAO report concluded.