An aerial view shows the Pentagon with the Washington Monument and National Mall in the background on Feb. 13, 2012.

An aerial view shows the Pentagon with the Washington Monument and National Mall in the background on Feb. 13, 2012. (Perry Aston/U.S. Air Force)

WASHINGTON — A civilian hiring freeze ordered by the Pentagon as part of the Defense Department’s initiative to downsize its headquarter's staff has been lifted after three months.

Deputy Defense Secretary Robert Work ordered the hiring halt to begin March 20 to ensure all personnel were accounted for in a new Pentagon accounting system, the Fourth Estate Manpower Tracking System. The freeze impacted all open full- and part-time, temporary and permanent civilian positions in the Office of the Secretary of Defense, Defense Agencies and DOD Field Activities.

A Defense Department spokesman on Tuesday confirmed the freeze had been lifted.

“All organizations have met the June 30 deadline to finalize their manpower adjustments in the Fourth Estate Manpower Tracking System,” said Air Force Lt. Col. Eric Badger, a DOD spokesman. “Each organization accounted for all of their positions in FMTS, and the hiring suspension for these activities is lifted.”

The freeze was installed to ensure positions were not filled that would eventually be cut as the Pentagon works to shrink its headquarters personnel by 25 percent by 2020, Work wrote in a February letter. It is not clear how many positions will be cut, but more than 300 are expected to be eliminated from the Office of the Secretary of Defense.

Reductions to headquarters staffs are necessary to divert funds to “higher priority requirements in support of the warfighter and to address underfunded strategic needs,” Work wrote in an earlier memo from August 2015.

The cuts, a part of a broader “delayering” effort to trim the Defense Department bureaucracy, are also designed to bring civilian workforce reductions more in line with military cuts. The Government Accountability Office in December determined the department’s civilian workforce shrunk about 3.3 percent from 2012 through 2016. Military troops were cut about 7 percent during the same time.

The Pentagon has said it expects to cut most of the civilian jobs through attrition. It will also offer voluntary early retirement or separation incentive payments, Badger said. Twitter: @CDicksteinDC

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Corey Dickstein covers the military in the U.S. southeast. He joined the Stars and Stripes staff in 2015 and covered the Pentagon for more than five years. He previously covered the military for the Savannah Morning News in Georgia. Dickstein holds a journalism degree from Georgia College & State University and has been recognized with several national and regional awards for his reporting and photography. He is based in Atlanta.

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