Trimming from the Top: Hagel Announces Staff Reductions in His Own Office

Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel listens to a speaker before testifying on Syria to the House Armed Services Committee on September 10, 2013.
National Journal
Sara Sorcher
Dec. 4, 2013, 9:51 a.m.

De­fense Sec­ret­ary Chuck Hagel donned his oth­er hat as the Pentagon’s downs­izer-in-chief on Wed­nes­day, an­noun­cing his latest ef­forts to cut spend­ing and per­son­nel— this time, in his own of­fice.

“With the Pentagon con­front­ing his­tor­ic­ally steep and ab­rupt spend­ing re­duc­tions after a dec­ade of sig­ni­fic­ant budget growth,” Hagel said at a press con­fer­ence, “there is a clear need, and an op­por­tun­ity, and I em­phas­ize op­por­tun­ity, to pare back over­head and stream­line headquar­ters across the De­part­ment.” 

About 2,400 mil­it­ary and ci­vil­ian per­son­nel work on Hagel’s staff, in the Of­fice of the Sec­ret­ary of De­fense; by fisc­al year 2019, that num­ber will drop to less than 2,200 per­son­nel. The re­duc­tions are ex­pec­ted to save about $1 bil­lion.

Con­sid­er­ing the scale of cuts the Pentagon is fa­cing — some $37 bil­lion this year, and po­ten­tially a total of $500 bil­lion if the across-the-board cuts known as se­quest­ra­tion re­main on the books in the com­ing years ““ the cut­backs ap­pear neg­li­gible. However, the fact that the De­fense sec­ret­ary is per­son­ally tak­ing steps to re­shape elite branches with­in the Pentagon’s labyrinth bur­eau­cracy is not­able, even in this era of fisc­al aus­ter­ity. These re­duc­tions are only a “first step,” Hagel stressed, in the de­part­ment’s ef­forts to “re­align de­fense spend­ing to meet new fisc­al real­it­ies and stra­tegic pri­or­it­ies.”

The dir­ect­ive comes on the heels of Hagel’s or­der this sum­mer that the Pentagon’s top brass plan for a 20 per­cent cut in their op­er­at­ing budgets— not just with­in his own of­fice, but in the Joint Staff and Pentagon headquar­ters staff of each of the four armed ser­vices. Hagel on Wed­nes­day an­nounced his of­fice will see wide­spread re­or­gan­iz­a­tion span­ning not just staff but mis­sion. The Pentagon’s policy shop, for in­stance, will elim­in­ate some seni­or po­s­i­tions but pri­or­it­ize op­er­a­tions in the Asia-Pa­cific re­gion, and space and cy­ber cap­ab­il­it­ies. The of­fice of Per­son­nel and Read­i­ness will “sharpen” its fo­cus on force man­age­ment and read­i­ness, mil­it­ary health care, com­pens­a­tion and re­tire­ment re­form, as the de­fense in­tel­li­gence of­fice plans how its mis­sion and fo­cus will evolve now that the era dom­in­ated by wars in Ir­aq and Afgh­anistan is com­ing to a close. “All these de­cisions will not only res­ult in a smal­ler and flat­ter OSD, but one that I be­lieve will be bet­ter pre­pared for the ser­i­ous and com­plex 21st cen­tury se­cur­ity chal­lenges that we face as a De­part­ment and as a na­tion,” Hagel said.

With no deal to avert se­quest­ra­tion yet, Hagel is can­did about the tea leaves for his de­part­ment’s budget woes — many of which, such as mil­it­ary re­tire­ment be­ne­fits and base clos­ures — are po­ten­tial polit­ic­al land­mines on Cap­it­ol Hill. “Dif­fi­cult but ne­ces­sary choices re­main ahead for the De­part­ment on com­pens­a­tion re­form, force struc­ture, ac­quis­i­tions and oth­er ma­jor parts of DoD,” he said. “These choices will be much more dif­fi­cult if Con­gress fails to halt se­quest­ra­tion and fully fund the Pres­id­ent’s budget re­quest.”

What We're Following See More »
TWO-THIRDS
Voters Want Medical Records
9 hours ago
THE DETAILS

Even though they dislike both of them, the American people want to know that its presidential candidates are healthy. "Nearly two-thirds of registered voters think presidential candidates should release details about their medical histories, according to a new Morning Consult poll." In the new poll, 64 percent of Americans say the candidates should release their medical reports, up nine percent from May.

Source:
OPTIMISM ABOUT STATE OF ECONOMY
Yellen Paves Way For Interest Rate Hike
10 hours ago
THE DETAILS

In a speech Friday at the Federal Reserve's Jackson Hole summit, Fed chair Janet Yellen sounded an optimistic tone about the state of the American economy, before implying that a hike in interest rates is on the horizon. The Fed "continues to anticipate that gradual increases in the federal funds rate will be appropriate over time to achieve and sustain employment and inflation near our statutory objectives," Yellen said in her address.

Source:
10 CASES
Study Finds Little Evidence of Voter Fraud
10 hours ago
THE DETAILS

While politicians argue over whether or not to be worried about potential voter fraud come November, a study tells us it is not a legitimate concern. "A News21 analysis four years ago of 2,068 alleged election-fraud cases in 50 states found that while some fraud had occurred since 2000, the rate was infinitesimal compared with the 146 million registered voters in that 12-year span. The analysis found only 10 cases of voter impersonation, the only kind of fraud that could be prevented by voter ID at the polls."

Source:
$7.3 MILLION IN JULY
Donations to DNC Relied on ‘Workaround’
11 hours ago
THE DETAILS

The Democratic National Committee's "influx of money" in July "owes in part to an unprecedented workaround of political spending limits that lets the party tap into millions of dollars more" from Hillary Clinton’s biggest donors. "At least $7.3 million of the DNC’s July total originated with payments from hundreds of major donors who had already contributed the maximum $33,400 to the national committee." Those payments were "first bundled by the Hillary Victory Fund and then transferred to the state Democratic parties, which effectively stripped the donors’ names and sent the money to the DNC as a lump sum."

Source:
OFF COAST OF HAWAII
Obama Creates World’s Largest Protected Reserve
11 hours ago
THE DETAILS

President Obama this morning "created the largest protected area on the planet Friday, by expanding a national marine monument off the coast of his native Hawaii to encompass 582,578 square miles of land and sea."

Source:
×