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Replacing soldiers with civilians could save billions: Report

A federal agency has issued a report suggesting the U.S. military could save as much as $5.7 billion every year by replacing some forces personnel with government civilians.

The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) used a model which either cut or replaced about 80,000 active-duty positions with civilians.

The report, published Tuesday, claims the move would not be new to the Department of Defense (DoD) and could help the military focus on core roles.

"Transferring to civilians certain jobs currently held by military personnel could reduce costs and increase DoD's focus on war-fighting," said the report authored by Adebayo Adedeji, Principal Analyst at the CBO's National Security Division.

The CBO outlined three scenarios: a one-for-one civilian replacement for certain service members, a four-for-five civilian to military replacement, and a two-to-three civilian to military replacement.

These, according to the report, could eventually save between $3.1 billion to $5.7 billion annually.

The CBO report also noted that the federal government would realize savings outside the DoD by replacing military personnel serving in departments such as Veterans Affairs, Treasury, and Education.

Daniel Wasserbly of defense and security intelligence group IHS Jane's believes a move to cut military strength is unlikely.

"CBO is brainstorming ideas to save money and this is an interesting one, but it's unlikely to be implemented because it would mean a controversial reduction in military end-strength.

"The services, particularly the U.S. Army, are in the process of reducing their ranks after growing significantly to fight in Iraq and Afghanistan. The service chiefs, and some in Congress, fear cuts may already be too deep," he told CNBC via email.


Manjunath Kiran | AFP | Getty Images

Wasserbly said the U.S. army has set out plans to drop 490,000 soldiers proposed in the 2015 budget down to 450,000 by the end of 2018.

And within the CBO report, downsides to reducing the number of active-duty military are highlighted.

"Achieving the costs savings depends on cutting military end strength. An action that would reduce the Department of Defense's ability to surge troops in a protracted conflict."