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 2021 2022 2023 2024 2025 2026 2027 2028 2029 2030 2021–
Change in Spending  
  Budget authority 0 -0.3 -0.8 -1.3 -1.9 -2.3 -2.4 -2.5 -2.6 -2.7 -4.3 -16.8
  Outlays 0 -0.2 -0.6 -1.1 -1.6 -1.9 -2.1 -2.2 -2.3 -2.4 -3.5 -14.4

This option would take effect in October 2021.
About 40 percent of the savings displayed are intragovernmental transactions and thus would not reduce the deficit. Such transactions would transfer resources from one category of the budget to another: Fewer military personnel would lower the Department of Defense’s payments for retirement accruals and Social Security contributions, but those lower payments would reduce federal receipts by an equal amount and thus would fully offset the savings.

The workforce of the Department of Defense (DoD) consists of members of the active-duty and reserve military, federal civilian employees, and private contractors. According to data from DoD, more than 300,000 active-duty members of the military work in support, or commercial, jobs that could be performed by civilian employees or contractors at a lower overall cost to the federal government.

Under this option, DoD would replace, over four years, 80,000 active-duty military personnel in commercial jobs with 64,000 civilian employees.