Workforce Implications of the Rebuilding the U.S. Armed Forces Presidential Memo
Published: February 09, 2017
Defense Secretary Mattis issued “Implementation Guidance for Budget Directives in the National Security Presidential Memorandum on Rebuilding the US Armed Forces” on January 31st.
One key aspect of the administration’s effort to rebuild the U.S. armed forces is growing the force structure. According to Mattis’ guidance, the 2018 National Defense Strategy (NDS) will include a “new force sizing construct” which will inform targets for force structure growth. “It will also determine an approach to enhancing the lethality of the joint force against high-end competitors and the effectiveness of our military against a broad spectrum of potential threats. The FY 2019-2023 Defense Program will follow, containing ramps that grow the force quickly but responsibly, and critical investments in advanced capabilities.”
The guidance breaks down implementation into three phases. Phase two focuses on identifying requirements to refine the current FY 2018 budget request. This phase is designed to root out additional key investments for FY 2018, and calls out 5 potential areas of investment one of which is “growing force structure at a maximum responsible rate.” The guidance notes that the Department will deliver an updated FY 2018 budget to OMB no later than May 1, 2017.
The chart below shows the total active duty military workforce by service from FY 1994 to the FY 2017 budget request.
The active duty military workforce has declined by 19% since FY 1994 equating to 309,000 military personnel. The Navy has seen the most decline losing 31% of its workforce since FY 1994, followed by the Air Force at a 25% loss.
The chart below shows the breakdown of rank across the department and workforce numbers for the same time period.
The number of enlisted service people has dropped by 293,000 since FY 1994 or 18%. Additionally, the ratio of officers to total active duty military employees has grown over this same time period, equating to 15% of the total active duty military workforce in FY 1994 and growing to 18% in FY 2016. The number of officers has held steady while the number of enlistments has declined over the years.
The budget for military personnel has been relatively flat for the past few years, going from $139B in FY 2015 to $138.6B in FY 2016, with an increase to $138.8B requested by the previous administration for FY 2017. While President Trump appears to be calling for force structure growth, assessments from the previous Defense Secretary, Ashton Carter, called for a different approach in the FY 2017 budget. Carter wanted more focus on shape and capability than sheer personnel numbers.
Civilian employment by the Department of Defense held relatively steady over the last five years as shown in the chart below.
Civilian employment by DOD dropped by 22,000 or 3% from FY 2012 to FY 2016. The FY 2017 budget request called for an increase of civilian DOD employment to 764,000.
President Trump’s hiring freeze does not apply to military personnel, however it does effect hiring of civilian personnel by the Department. DOD released detailed guidance on February 1st listing civilian positions involved in ensuring national security and public safety that will be deemed exempt from the hiring freeze.
Once a strategy and FY 2018 budget are approved, we are likely to see more recruiting and hiring by DOD. However, efforts to reduce costs and waste, along with the pursuit of innovative practices may help offset workforce investments from a budget perspective.
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