Labour says the Defence Force is set to slash hundreds of jobs but Defence Minister Gerry Brownlee says most of the positions are already vacant.
Labour's defence spokesman Phil Goff has released papers obtained under the Official Information Act, which he says recommend long-term changes affecting more than 700 positions – including 315 civilian roles.
"This is just a few years after the Government imposed its disastrous civilianisation process. The result of that was that thousands of disillusioned service personnel quit," he said.
"All of this foreshadows a further shambles in Defence Force staffing and growing pressures from not having enough people to meet demands."
Mr Goff said the Government was also performing a U-turn by converting 36 civilian roles back to military ones.
But Mr Brownlee's office says the papers, from last year, showed the 315 civilian positions identified was roughly equivalent to the 300 civilian vacancies already at the Defence Force.
It has a target of 12,500 positions by 2035 and that could be met without any large-scale lay offs, a spokeswoman said.
No decision had been made on which civilian positions would be needed, she said.
In 2010, the Defence Force began a cost-cutting "civilianisation" project, where jobs normally done by enlisted personnel were turned over to civilian staff.
Mr Brownlee's spokeswoman said the 36 civilian roles recommended for conversion to military roles were not those involved in the earlier process and the move was to "provide military sustainability".