Defense Department to Prune Senior Ranks, Freeze Staffing

WASHINGTON, Jan. 6, 2011 — The Defense Depart­ment will reduce its senior ranks and freeze civil­ian staffing lev­els, Defense Sec­re­tary Robert M. Gates said today.
“The mon­e­tary sav­ings from … reduc­tions in senior per­son­nel will be rel­a­tive­ly mod­est, and most­ly con­sist of the extra staff and ameni­ties that, by tra­di­tion, fol­low high rank,” Gates said.

The sec­re­tary and Navy Adm. Mike Mullen, chair­man of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, spoke to reporters at the Pen­ta­gon on the results of defense effi­cien­cies ini­tia­tives begun in May to trim sup­port costs and ensure fund­ing for mil­i­tary mod­ern­iza­tion.

The pri­ma­ry pur­pose of reduc­ing senior rank struc­ture is “to cre­ate few­er, flat­ter, more agile — and thus, more effec­tive — orga­ni­za­tions,” Gates said.

In announc­ing the sec­ond set of ini­tia­tives in August, Gates said he would appoint a senior task force to assess the num­ber of posi­tions for gen­er­al and flag offi­cers and Senior Exec­u­tive Ser­vice employ­ees. As a result of that assess­ment, the depart­ment will elim­i­nate more than 100 gen­er­al offi­cer and flag offi­cer posi­tions from the 900 it cur­rent­ly autho­rizes, the sec­re­tary said today.

“Of those, 28 are bil­lets that were cre­at­ed after 9/11, pri­mar­i­ly for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan,” Gates said. “They will be reduced as appro­pri­ate, as major troop deploy­ments wind down.”

More than 80 oth­er flag or gen­er­al-offi­cer posi­tions spread among the ser­vices, the Defense Depart­ment and the com­bat­ant com­mands “will be elim­i­nat­ed or down­grad­ed,” Gates said.

Defense will also elim­i­nate near­ly 200 of the 1,400 civil­ian posi­tions from the department’s Senior Exec­u­tive Ser­vice or equiv­a­lent posi­tions, Gates said.

As the depart­ment prunes its senior ranks, it also will put a check on over­all staff num­bers by freez­ing the num­ber of employ­ees at cur­rent lev­els for the next three years, Gates said.

“Since the begin­ning of this fis­cal year, which began Oct. 1, we’ve been oper­at­ing under a freeze in the num­ber of posi­tions, with very lim­it­ed excep­tions … with­in the Office of the Sec­re­tary of Defense, the defense agen­cies and field activ­i­ties and the com­bat­ant com­mands,” the sec­re­tary said.

Gates said he instruct­ed those orga­ni­za­tions to “con­duct a clean-sheet review” to rebal­ance resources, staff and func­tions with­in and across their com­po­nents to reflect the department’s most press­ing pri­or­i­ties.

“The result­ing review pro­duced a num­ber of oppor­tu­ni­ties to trim the size of the work force, yield­ing more than $4 bil­lion in sav­ings over the next five years,” he said. “I will rec­om­mend to the pres­i­dent that we hold to these lim­its in over­all DOD staff lev­els for the next three years.”

While new require­ments may emerge that require fur­ther staff sup­port, the sec­re­tary said, those needs should be met by shift­ing per­son­nel from oth­er, less impor­tant activ­i­ties with­in the orga­ni­za­tion.

U.S. Depart­ment of Defense
Office of the Assis­tant Sec­re­tary of Defense (Pub­lic Affairs)

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