WASHINGTON (CN) – Defense Secretary Robert Gates announced Monday that the Pentagon will cut thousands of jobs as part of an effort to move away from a “culture of endless money” and refocus defense spending on fighting the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
As part of the streamlining, Gates said he’s closing the Joint Forces Command, a $240 million per year operation based in Norfolk, Va., that employs 2,800 military and civilian staff and supports 3,000 contractors. The command was formed to link the different facets of the military, but Gates said that mission is now part of the military’s overall culture.
The cost of sustaining two wars and continuing to modernize the Army takes annual growth of 2 to 3 percent, Gates said, which is 1 to 2 percent above current budget projections. Gates said he would make up the 1 percent difference by scaling down defense spending elsewhere, including spending on contractors.
Gates said cutting 20 wasteful Defense Department programs last year — projected to cost $300 billion — was not enough.
Gates called for an immediate 10 percent reduction in funding for intelligence advisory and assistance contracts, along with a reduction in funding for service support contractors by 10 percent a year over the next three years.
He also froze the number of senior executive positions at defense intelligence organizations, the number of defense agency and combatant command positions and the number of staff in his own office.
Gates said that headquarters and support bureaucracies “have swelled to cumbersome and top-heavy proportions.”
He put a hiring freeze on senior civilian officials and general and flag officers, a move that’s estimated to eliminate at least 50 general and flag officer positions and 150 senior civilian executive positions over the next two years.
The department will also shut down the 360-staff, $340 million a year Business Transformation Agency, which was formed to modernize the agency’s business practices.
Though the Pentagon expects to face resistance from members of Congress reluctant to cut jobs in their districts, Gates said, “Hard is not impossible.”
The agency will also cut funding for studies produced by outside boards and commissions by 25 percent in 2011, as well as freeze the number of internal oversight reports.
In 1970 the Pentagon produced 37 reports for Congress. Last year, the Pentagon delivered 700.
“Our country is still fighting two wars, confronts ongoing terrorist threats around the globe, and faces other major powers investing heavily in their military,” Gates said at the Pentagon news briefing. “It is important that we not repeat the mistakes of the past, where tough economic times or the winding down of a military campaign leads to steep and unwise reductions in defense.
“I want to reemphasize that this agenda is not about cutting the department’s budget,” he said. He billed the measures as a way of “reforming the way the Pentagon does business,” reducing excess spending in order to direct defense funds to “where they belong: in America’s fighting forces, investment in future capabilities and, most important, on our men and women in uniform.”