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Steven BelcherNicholas DiebelKletus Lawler
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The Department of Defense’s (DOD’s) total force comprises active and reserve military personnel, government civilians, and contracted services. Each of these types of manpower brings unique and, in some areas, comparable capabilities to execute the work required to support DOD’s mission. Optimizing the workforce “mix” is an ongoing process that has generated a great deal of discussion over the years, especially as leadership guidance has sometimes favored one type over the others.

In assessing the composition of DOD’s total force, it is important to understand and recognize the strategic value and contributions of all parts of the department’s workforce. Identifying and, where possible, measuring these contributions using analytically based methods will provide the foundation for objective, data-driven assessments. Without this foundation, the department risks workforce decisions that are influenced by opinions and potential misperceptions.

This study builds part of that foundation by providing visibility into the contributions and roles of DOD’s government civilian workforce as enablers of warfighter readiness, lethality, and capability. Because of its size and distribution and the many types of work that these civilians perform, a comprehensive, quantitative analysis of all sectors of this workforce was well beyond the scope of this study. As a result, we structure our work along two lines of effort. The first was to examine the entire civilian workforce at a high level with the goals of identifying the areas in which civilians contribute to DOD’s mission and determining how many civilians
contribute to each area. The second line of effort was to conduct a more in-depth analysis of a specific sector of this workforce to develop quantitative relationships between its size and key military readiness metrics.

How big is DOD’s civilian workforce?

Before investigating the contributions of DOD’s government civilian workforce, we provide some summary statistics on its size and distribution. In September 2018, this workforce numbered just over 691,000. The Army employs the most civilians, followed by the Department of the Navy (DON), the Air Force, and the DOD agencies. The size of this workforce has changed in the past decade. Overall, it grew by just over 10 percent, but not uniformly across the services. The DON and DOD agencies experienced the largest growth (each over 20 percent). The Air Force was next with a 13 percent increase, whereas the Army’s civilian workforce decreased slightly (by 1.5 percent) during this time.

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DISTRIBUTION STATEMENT A. Approved for public release: distribution unlimited.


  • Pages: 110
  • Document Number: DRM-2020-U-026032-1Rev
  • Publication Date: 9/29/2021
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