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DoD Civilians · 1:18pm

A little known facet of the US Armed Forces is how many people aren't actually part of the military.


But seriously, the United States Department of Defense employs 1.3 million men and women on active duty, 826,000 in the National Guard and Reserve forces, and 742,000 civilian personnel.

Before we talk about the civilians, however, please understand that the DoD is friggin' huge.  In terms of infrastructure, it owns several hundred thousand buildings and structures located at more than 5,000 different sites around the globe.  Employing nearly three million people makes them the largest employer in the world, even bigger than Walmart or the Chinese military.

So who are these not-military DoD people?  Honestly, nearly everyone.  They can be found doing pretty much every job, short of front line combat.  Of course, civilian employees tend to work more in offices and administrative roles.  However, they can still fill incredibly important positions.

Over on US Pacific Command (PACOM)'s website, I see that the director of the intelligence department (callsign J2) is a Navy Rear Admiral.  His second in command (J20) is a civilian.  Looking at contact information for other departments and other large headquarters commands, this doesn't seem to be unusual.

Yes, placing civilians above military members seems a little weird.  But then, you have the ultimate DoD civilian: the Secretary of Defense.  And don't forget his boss, the President.

So when it comes down to it, can civilians legitimately give orders to troops?  Apparently, the two guys mentioned above, SecDef and POTUS, are the only ones authorized.  Everyone else, regardless of their position, can only supervise.  

Of course, people like the aforementioned PACOM J20 carry a lot of implied authority.  If his boss the Admiral says he has the authority, the military people under him will probably go along with it.

The military has a pretty well defined rank structure.  For civilians, it's not as obvious, but they have a pay scale based on job.  There are a lot of different kinds of pay scales, but the most common is General Schedule (GS).

Here's a few civilian pay scales compared to officer ranks:

GS 1-6 (not shown) is comparable to military enlisted ranks.  I would guess PACOM J20 is probably a GS-15.

So, we've established that most DoD civilians work in offices, but what about the rest?  You have civilian police employed by the military that patrol bases in conjunction with military police.  Related, you have military investigative services like NCIS/CID/AFOSI/CGIS.

There are also jobs like depot-level maintenance for ships and aircraft that military personnel aren't qualified to perform.  What if some of that equipment needs maintenance while deployed?  Well, that means some civilian mechanic gets deployed.  For an example that blows my mind, aircraft carriers take a Xerox guy on deployment with them to fix copiers.

To be fair, Xerox guys are contractors.  Contractors aren’t employed directly by the DoD, instead getting paid by their company that is paid by the military, so a level of accountability is lost there.  Based on news reports about contractors like Haliburton and Blackwater, they have a bit of a reputation.  Snowden worked for Booz Allen Hamilton, contracted to the NSA.

Trivia: Blackwater is currently operating under the name Academi.

Speaking of the NSA, the US intelligence community is highly staffed by members of the military.  A bit ironic considering we think of many spy agencies as civilian James Bond type of things.

NSA, DIA, NGA, NRO, and the individual service intelligence offices are made up of a mix of civilian and military members.  It runs into some interesting legal issues.  While the above organizations are simultaneously part of the US Intelligence Community and part of the military, the USIC and military operate under different legal codes.  For example, within the NSA, only the military can launch attacks.  Even if a civilian sitting in the same room wrote the virus, somebody in a uniform has to be the one to push the button.

Despite Title 10/Title 50 shenanigans, civilians do go to hot zones, though not to participate of course.  Despite this, some have died in the line of duty.

How do you keep them from standing out like a sore thumb?  Well, in some cases, like this:

In my personal opinion, this is pushing the limits of being a noncombatant, but as long as they wear the tag identifying them as not-military, I guess they’re legal.

Yeah, that’s another thing, DoD civilians are generally unarmed noncombatants.  There are some exceptions.  Note here that CIA is not part of the DoD.  So what are those civilians doing with black ops?  Again, Title 10/Title 50.  Often, as long as they are with military personnel, it’s okay.  It’s a big legal grey area.  Sounds like another blog.

So if it’s so complicated and civilians have so many limitations, why are there so many in the DoD and why are those numbers going up?

Did you guess?  Money!

According to the Congressional Budget Office, the typical civilian federal employee costs about $96,000 annually. Troops’ pay, benefits and training total closer to $135,000 on average.

That may even be true.  Counter arguments talk about bloated budgets and too many people period.  Regardless, the military will continue to work with civilians, and that may not be a bad thing.  It’s always good to get a fresh perspective, which may mean working with other countries, services, or civilians.

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#478 · 1w, 3d ago · · ·

thanks for writing "Beat". great story, reminded me of my love for japan.

#477 · 5w, 4d ago · · ·

Ah OK thank you I just finished it and it was alot of fun

#476 · 5w, 4d ago · · ·

>>2157057 Likely no.  It took almost two years to write.

#475 · 5w, 4d ago · · ·

Is true blue hero gonna get a sequal

#474 · 6w, 2d ago · · ·

Suddenly realized I wasn't following you . . . Fixed that real quick.

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