Leaders Outline Projected Senior Officer Cuts

WASHINGTON, Sept. 15, 2011 — The nation’s mil­i­tary ser­vices will reduce their gen­er­al and flag offi­cer ranks by 103 by the end of 2014, senior Defense Depart­ment offi­cials told Con­gress mem­bers yes­ter­day.

Clif­ford L. Stan­ley, under­sec­re­tary of defense for per­son­nel and readi­ness, led the wit­ness slate for a two-part hear­ing before the Sen­ate Armed Ser­vices Committee’s per­son­nel sub­com­mit­tee on gen­er­al and flag offi­cer require­ments. He was joined by Navy Vice Adm. William E. Gort­ney, direc­tor of the Joint Staff, and Ben­jamin J. Free­man, a nation­al secu­ri­ty fel­low for the Project on Gov­ern­ment Over­sight Loca­tion.

Stan­ley and Gort­ney led a study group tasked by then-Defense Sec­re­tary Robert M. Gates to iden­ti­fy at least 50 active-duty gen­er­al or flag offi­cer posi­tions to be elim­i­nat­ed as part of Gates’ effi­cien­cy ini­tia­tives launched in 2010, Stan­ley said.

“In addi­tion, the sec­re­tary direct­ed that we seek every oppor­tu­ni­ty to elim­i­nate bureau­cra­cy, reduce over­head, and devel­op poli­cies to bet­ter man­age future gen­er­al and flag-offi­cer growth,” he added.

The study group reviewed the 952 autho­rized one- to four-star active-duty flag and gen­er­al offi­cer posi­tions across the ser­vices autho­rized in 2010, Stan­ley said, and it rec­om­mend­ed that 110 posi­tions be elim­i­nat­ed.

Gates approved 103 for elim­i­na­tion, 23 for reduc­tion to a less­er grade, and 10 to be real­lo­cat­ed to joint orga­ni­za­tions such as U.S. Cyber Com­mand, he said.

Defense Sec­re­tary Leon E. Panet­ta, who suc­ceed­ed Gates, has accept­ed the poli­cies put in place by his pre­de­ces­sor, Stan­ley said.

The elim­i­nat­ed flag-offi­cer posi­tions will remain autho­rized, which gives DOD flex­i­bil­i­ty to meet emerg­ing require­ments, the under­sec­re­tary said.

Sim­i­lar­ly, Stan­ley said, the mil­i­tary depart­ments have iden­ti­fied posi­tions they can elim­i­nate or trans­fer to the senior exec­u­tive ser­vice, the civil­ian equiv­a­lent of flag offi­cers, to gain that same flex­i­bil­i­ty.

“We refer to this as a ser­vice buffer,” Stan­ley said. “This buffer serves as a shock absorber against new require­ments, allow­ing an off­set posi­tion to be elim­i­nat­ed with­out neg­a­tive impact on the mis­sion or per­son­nel caused by ill-timed action.”

Gort­ney said weeks before the study group set to work, the ser­vices eval­u­at­ed their gen­er­al or flag offi­cer posi­tions as “must have, need to have, good to have, and nice to have.”

The study group includ­ed mem­bers of the Office of the Sec­re­tary of Defense, the Joint Staff, and rep­re­sen­ta­tives from each service’s gen­er­al and flag-offi­cer man­age­ment offices, the vice admi­ral not­ed.

“The study group went after growth, and the major­i­ty of the growth was in over­seas con­tin­gency oper­a­tions,” he said.

Gort­ney not­ed that of the 103 posi­tions approved for elim­i­na­tion, 47 are from over­seas con­tin­gency oper­a­tions includ­ing those in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Free­man tes­ti­fied on the Project on Gov­ern­ment Oversight’s inves­ti­ga­tion of gen­er­al and flag offi­cer num­bers in the U.S. mil­i­tary.

“In the decade since the war in Afghanistan began, high­er ranks grew at a much faster rate than low­er ranks,” he said. “The top offi­cer ranks … have grown faster than enlist­ed and low­er offi­cer ranks, and the three- and four-star ranks have increased faster than all oth­er com­po­nents of the DOD’s force struc­ture.”

Marine Corps Gen. Joseph F. Dun­ford Jr., assis­tant Marine Corps com­man­dant, and the ser­vice vice chiefs of staff, Army Gen. Peter W. Chiarel­li, Navy Adm. Mark E. Fer­gu­son III, and Air Force Gen. Philip M. Breedlove, made up the pan­el for part two of the hear­ing.

As oper­a­tions in Iraq and Afghanistan draw down, Chiarel­li told the sub­com­mit­tee, Pen­ta­gon lead­ers “rec­og­nize the mil­i­tary ser­vices will be required to make reduc­tions to end strength to include with­in our flag and gen­er­al offi­cer ranks.”

By 2014, the Army will reduce the num­ber of its inter­nal gen­er­al offi­cers by 11 and its joint pool from 102 to a min­i­mum of 82, Chiarel­li said. The Army’s gen­er­al offi­cer end strength, he added, will then be 301, one less than the num­ber in place from 1995 to 2008.

“We believe this pro­ject­ed end strength will be suf­fi­cient to meet our need [for] senior lead­er­ship, both inter­nal to the Army and across the Depart­ment of Defense,” Chiarel­li said. “That said, any fur­ther reduc­tions or accel­er­a­tion of planned reduc­tions would jeop­ar­dize our abil­i­ty to effec­tive­ly meet those require­ments.”

Fer­gu­son said the Navy will change some 25 posi­tions, for an end strength of 149 flag offi­cers assigned to the ser­vice and 60 in the joint pool.

“In addi­tion, we down­grad­ed 50 offi­cers,” he said. “Flag posi­tions were con­vert­ed to senior exec­u­tive ser­vice. We ful­ly sup­port these reduc­tions and believe that we’re appro­pri­ate­ly sized for our cur­rent task­ing.”

Dun­ford said the Marine Corps will reduce its joint gen­er­al offi­cer pool from 26 to 21 by 2015, and has already elim­i­nat­ed one senior exec­u­tive ser­vice posi­tion.

“The cur­rent mix of Marine Corps gen­er­al offi­cers rep­re­sents the prop­er bal­ance to sup­port Marine Corps oper­at­ing forces in sup­port­ing ele­ment demands across the globe, and we’re sat­is­fied with our joint rep­re­sen­ta­tion,” he said.

Breedlove said the Air Force has tar­get­ed 39 gen­er­al offi­cer posi­tions and nine SES posi­tions for elim­i­na­tion.

When the reduc­tions are com­plete in 2014, the Air Force will have 261 gen­er­al offi­cers and 188 senior exec­u­tive ser­vice posi­tions, he said.

“Ulti­mate­ly, we believe that we [will] have the cor­rect mix of mil­i­tary offi­cers and civil­ian exec­u­tives to pro­vide the Air Force with the best lead­er­ship team,” Breedlove said.

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