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Government union is coming out hard against Thornberry’s proposed budget cuts

U.S. Rep. Mac Thornberry, then-Chairman of the House Armed Services Committee (HASC), questions senior military leaders during a HASC hearing on Capitol Hill, March 7, 2017. (DoD Photo by U.S. Army Sgt. James K. McCann)
April 25, 2018

Texas Rep. Mac Thornberry’s plan to initiate steep spending cuts for military support agencies has been met with opposition from a federal union representing some 270,000 Defense Department workers, the Washington Examiner reported on Tuesday.

The union is urging Thornberry to pull his multi-billion dollar bill that proposes across-the-board cuts to a large number of Defense Department agencies.

Thornberry, who is the House Armed Services chairmen, introduced a bill earlier this month that includes slashing the Pentagon’s defense agencies’ budget by more than $25 billion, or about 25 percent, by 2021. The cuts would affect at least 28 agencies, field activities and military media outlets not directly under military services.

The bill also seeks to eliminate seven agencies entirely: the Defense Technical Information Center, Defense Test Resource Management Center, Office of Economic Adjustment, Defense Technology Security Administration, Defense Information Systems Agency, Defense Human Resources Activity and Washington Headquarters Services.

Thornberry said that spending among the agencies has increased significantly over the last few years, which is negatively affecting decision-making at the Pentagon during a critical time of growing international threats.

Now, the American Federation of Government Employees, which represents represents about 700,000 federal employees spread over 70 agencies, wants to alter Thornberry’s plan. The union has called for agency reviews every five years rather than specific spending reductions.

“We respectfully suggest that the committee pull back the [bill] draft because of the misconceptions about defense agencies,” wrote J. David Cox, who is the national president of the union.

Cox cited testimony from former Defense Department officials who said it was unrealistic to implement a 25-percent spending reduction. The bill targets the department’s Fourth Estate, a collection of agencies and activities not directly within the military services that make up the $100 billion annual budget.

The rest of the budget consists of defense healthcare, intelligence operations, missile defense and special operations, and are all areas that are unlikely to be cut, according to the testimony.

Cox also suggested that the five-year reviews also required by Thornberry’s proposed bill should be revised on the grounds that they are “biased in the direction of mandating ‘reductions’ mischaracterized as ‘savings.’”

Cox was not the only official critical of Thornberry’s legislation.

Rep. Adam Smith, a Democrat and ranking member on the Armed Services committee, also expressed his concern about the proposed cuts, claiming that they could be damaging to the military’s mission.

Thornberry is aiming to have his legislation be part of the 2019 National Defense Authorization Act, which will likely be finalized toward the end of this year.