(The Center Square) – Republican presidential candidate Vivek Ramaswamy proposed cutting 75% of the federal workforce in a speech Wednesday aimed at shutting down what he called the “administrative state.”
“The people who we elect to run the government ought to be the ones who actually run the government – not the managerial bureaucracy in three-letter government agencies,” he said during a speech at the America First Policy Institute in Washington D.C.
Ramaswamy said he would reduce the federal workforce by 75% by the end of his first term if elected president. He said 50% of those cuts could be made in his first year.
The federal government employs about 2.25 million military personnel. About 1 million of those are reservists. The federal government has about 2.25 million civilian personnel. About 60% of those employees work for the Departments of Defense, Veterans Affairs and Homeland Security, according to the Congressional Budget Office.
Ramaswamy said he would shutter the FBI; the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives; the U.S. Department of Education; the Nuclear Regulatory Commission; and the Department of Agriculture’s Food and Nutrition Services.
“We’re going to have to confront several myths that have been perpetuated in this town by advisers and members of the very bureaucracy we’re looking to shut down,” he said, “that we’re going to have to confront and overcome to understand how the U.S. President can actually get this job done.”
Ramaswamy promised “large-scale mass layoffs” could be accomplished single-handedly by the president.
Any plan for mass federal layoffs would likely face legal and political challenges.
Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson, another Republican presidential candidate behind in the polls, has proposed cutting the federal civilian workforce by 10%.
That more modest proposal would be tough, according to the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget, a nonpartisan group.
“Laying off that many current employees all at once would require substantial changes to laws surrounding federal workers and could be highly disruptive,” according to the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget. “More likely, lawmakers would implement this policy by shrinking the federal workforce through attrition – for example, by hiring no more than one new employee for every two employees that leave or retire.”
The Congressional Budget Office studied the attrition budget option in 2018. That proposed reducing the workforce at each federal agency by 10% through attrition while allowing the President to exempt certain agencies for national security reasons or emergency needs. The CBO estimated at the time that this option would reduce the deficit by $5.3 billion to $35 billion from 2019 through 2028.