WASHINGTON, July 17, 2013 – Pentagon leaders will reduce their staffs by 20 percent as the Defense Department works to craft a strategy-based spending plan that accounts for likely future spending cuts, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said yesterday.
Speaking to reporters at Naval Air Station Jacksonville in Florida during a three-day visit to military installations in the Southeast, Hagel said his office and those of the chairman of the Joint Chief of Staff and the service chiefs will cut headquarters staffs by one-fifth from 2015 to 2019.
Pentagon Press Secretary George Little said in a written statement yesterday that total savings from the reduced staffing could reach $1.5-2 billion.
“Secretary Hagel’s announcement is based on the work of the Strategic Choices and Management Review, which scrutinized the department’s spending priorities and determined that these headquarters reductions should be pursued now, regardless of future fiscal circumstances,” Little said. “These cuts will be implemented even if Congress lifts sequester-level budget caps.”
In meetings with service members and civilians throughout his travels this week, the secretary has stressed that defense leaders are planning for the full range of sequester cuts that could total $500 billion in defense spending reductions over a decade.
“Uncertainty is a tremendous enemy for all of us, for obvious reasons,” Hagel said. “I’ve got to prepare this institution and our people for the facts of life and the reality as it is and the law that is now in place.”
Hagel said his major objective for the review the department conducted earlier this year was to prepare for probable future cuts. In a letter to the Senate last week, the secretary outlined possible force cuts and civilian reductions in force that may ensue if sequester remains in place beyond the current fiscal year.
The secretary noted that reducing defense spending in postwar periods is normal.
“In our history, we’ve had to go through this three or four times since World War II,” Hagel said. “The difference now is more uncertainty and the reality that we’re facing a steeper, deeper, more abrupt cut than probably ever before.”
Responding to a question about the reaction of defense civilians he’s spoken with, many of whom are now furloughed one day per week, Hagel said, “I don’t like to come out and tell people that they’re going to lose 20 percent of their pay. … There’s nothing good about that.”
The secretary added that he feels it’s important to explain what led to the furlough decision, and to give employees an opportunity to ask questions.
“And I told them I hope we can do better,” Hagel said. “But I’m in a situation that we’re all in, and I’ve got to deal with what I’ve got to deal with.”