Discretionary Spending

Function 050 - National Defense

Replace Some Military Personnel With Civilian Employees

CBO periodically issues a compendium of policy options (called Options for Reducing the Deficit) covering a broad range of issues, as well as separate reports that include options for changing federal tax and spending policies in particular areas. This option appears in one of those publications. The options are derived from many sources and reflect a range of possibilities. For each option, CBO presents an estimate of its effects on the budget but makes no recommendations. Inclusion or exclusion of any particular option does not imply an endorsement or rejection by CBO.

Billions of dollars 2015 2016 2017 2018 2019 2020 2021 2022 2023 2024 2015-2019 2015-2024
Change in Spending                        
  Budget authority 0 -0.3 -0.9 -1.6 -2.4 -2.9 -3.0 -3.1 -3.2 -3.3 -5.1 -20.6
  Outlays 0 -0.2 -0.8 -1.4 -2.2 -2.7 -2.9 -3.0 -3.1 -3.2 -4.7 -19.7

Note: This option would take effect in October 2015. Estimates are relative to CBO’s August 2014 baseline projections. About 30 percent of the savings would be reductions in intragovernmental payments and thus would not reduce the deficit.

According to data from the Department of Defense (DoD), thousands of members of the military work in support roles or in “commercial” jobs that could be performed by civilians. Under this option, over four years, DoD would replace 80,000 of the more than 500,000 uniformed military personnel in commercial jobs with 53,000 civilian employees and, as a result, decrease military end strength (the number of military personnel on the rolls as of the final day of a fiscal year) by 80,000. Those changes would reduce the need for appropriations primarily because fewer civilians would replace a given number of military personnel. (Civilians have fewer collateral duties and do not generally rotate among positions as rapidly as military personnel do.)