By Brett Gillin
Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel thinks that by cutting his Pentagon staff down, they will save at least $1 billion over the next five years. The announcement came Wednesday at a Pentagon news conference, where Hagel laid out his plans in greater detail than the terms he set forth last summer, when the cuts were first announced. Hagel’s plan is only a part of the larger overall proposal that is aimed at reorganizing Pentagon staff and trimming budgets of various defense headquarters. Many soldiers and public servants who work in defense are left wondering what these cuts could mean to them and their futures.
Hagel claims that most of the proposed 20 percent staff cuts will involve contract workers and civilian staff. The more than 200 jobs that will be cut in the Office of the Secretary of Defense alone could help to shave the proposed $1 billion off the budgets, but the part about it being a piece of a “larger plan” is what has many worried. Most analysts believe that along with the cuts to the Office of the Secretary of Defense, personnel working for the Joint Chiefs of Staff, service chiefs, combat commanders, and any headquarters above a three-star level will be facing similar cuts in the coming months and years.
Hagel is quoted in this story as saying “some of these savings will be achieved through significant reductions in civilian personnel; much of these savings will be achieved through contractor reductions. We are still finalizing the details, which will be available when the budget is submitted next year.”
The U.S. military’s service chiefs have gone on the record warning that these cuts are much more significant than Hagel seems to be letting on. Back in September, the Navy Times reported on the service chiefs’ view of the impending cuts and their long-term impact on troop cuts, deployment-to-dwell times and cutbacks to worldwide operations. The chiefs unanimously agree that these budget cuts will render them “unable to meet the demands of the national security strategy drawn up just last year,” according to the Navy Times.
These budget cuts mean that Army and Marine Corps forces will shrink significantly and raise large concerns about their readiness should a crisis arise. The Navy is looking at a reduction in aircraft carrier groups who would be ready for deployment, while the Air Force will be forced to cut airman, aircraft squadrons, and may be forced to shut down entire aircraft platforms.
Hagel went on to urge Congress to curb any further sequestrations, which are already putting heavy strains on the military’s ability to carry out future missions.