Audit Questions Savings in Plan to Cut Strategic Command, Other Staffs

U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel passes the Strategic Command flag to Navy Adm. Cecil Haney during a change-of-command ceremony in 2013. A recent congressional audit has found that a Pentagon plan to reduce the number of senior staff assigned to the nuclear-weapons command and other military headquarters might not result in significant cost savings.
National Journal
Rachel Oswald
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Rachel Oswald
June 30, 2014, 9:23 a.m.

A Pentagon plan to cut costs by re­du­cing seni­or staff at Stra­tegic Com­mand and oth­er mil­it­ary headquar­ters may not pro­duce sig­ni­fic­ant sav­ings, an audit says.

De­fense Sec­ret­ary Chuck Hagel last year ordered across-the-board re­duc­tions of 20 per­cent of the budget of all mil­it­ary com­mand headquar­ters. Con­gress dir­ec­ted its Gov­ern­ment Ac­count­ab­il­ity Of­fice to ex­am­ine the ef­fects of those dir­ec­ted cuts on the Pentagon’s three “func­tion­al com­pon­ent com­mands,” which are Stra­tegic Com­mand, Spe­cial Op­er­a­tions Com­mand and Trans­port­a­tion Com­mand.

In find­ings re­leased last Thursday, the ana­lysts said that lim­it­ing cuts to just those per­son­nel in man­age­ment roles at the com­mand or­gan­iz­a­tions would po­ten­tially ex­clude from con­sid­er­a­tion more than 75 per­cent of the headquar­ters po­s­i­tions.

In their 73-page re­port, aud­it­ors “found that less than a quarter of the po­s­i­tions at the func­tion­al com­batant com­mands are con­sidered to be man­age­ment headquar­ters even though many po­s­i­tions ap­pear to be per­form­ing man­age­ment headquar­ters func­tions such as plan­ning, budget­ing and de­vel­op­ing policies.”

The GAO of­fi­cials con­cluded the Pentagon does not have “a clear or ac­cur­ate ac­count­ing of the re­sources be­ing de­voted to man­age­ment headquar­ters to use as a start­ing point to track re­duc­tions,” in part be­cause it re­lies on self-re­por­ted data from the com­mands, which can be in­con­sist­ent.

Stra­tegic Com­mand is re­spons­ible for de­tect­ing and de­ter­ring stra­tegic at­tacks against the United States and its al­lies. The Neb­raska-based com­mand has com­bat re­spons­ib­il­ity over all U.S. bal­list­ic mis­sile sub­mar­ines, nuc­le­ar-cap­able bombers and in­ter­con­tin­ent­al bal­list­ic mis­siles.

Cur­rently headed by Adm. Cecil Haney, the com­mand in fisc­al 2013 spent $623.4 mil­lion sup­port­ing its headquar­ters op­er­a­tions, which cov­er ser­vice com­pon­ent com­mands such as Air Force Glob­al Strike Com­mand; co­ordin­at­ing cen­ters such as the Cen­ter for Com­bat­ing Weapons of Mass De­struc­tion; and one sub-uni­fied com­mand — Cy­ber Com­mand, ac­cord­ing to the re­port. Com­par­at­ively, less than $200 mil­lion was spent in fisc­al 2001 on STRAT­COM headquar­ters activ­it­ies.

The nuc­le­ar com­mand also has seen the num­ber of mil­it­ary and ci­vil­ian per­son­nel as­signed to it and its sub-com­mands bal­loon in re­cent years, rising from few­er than 2,000 people in fisc­al 2001 to a total of 4,466 au­thor­ized po­s­i­tions in fisc­al 2013.

Much of that re­cent growth can be at­trib­uted to the cre­ation in 2009 of Glob­al Strike Com­mand, which was es­tab­lished to ad­dress short­com­ings in the Air Force’s man­age­ment of its nuc­le­ar bomber and ICBM mis­sions. The ser­vice com­pon­ent com­mand had just un­der 600 mil­it­ary and ci­vil­ian per­son­nel as­signed to it in the last fisc­al year.

The Pentagon par­tially agreed with the con­gres­sion­al aud­it­ors’ re­com­mend­a­tion that it re­con­sider its de­cision to fo­cus mil­it­ary com­mand cuts to just man­age­ment po­s­i­tions at headquar­ters. At the same time, the de­part­ment ar­gued the re­com­mend­a­tion fell out­side the scope of the GAO re­view man­date, which was to ex­am­ine the re­sources and per­son­nel as­signed to the three func­tion­al com­mands.

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