A cynic might call it the “sergeant’s revenge.” But the reductions Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel plans in the Pentagon’s bureaucracy are necessary.
Hagel is ordering a 20 percent cut in the number of Pentagon brass and civilians by 2019. That’s 3,000 to 5,000 jobs. Hagel said the cutbacks would apply to his own office, the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the headquarters of the various armed services.
It is part of a broader effort by the Pentagon to deal with forced spending reductions that have led to furloughs for some 650,000 civilian workers. Active-duty troops don’t face furloughs but have seen reductions in training.
Military spending was cut by $37 billion this year, and the Pentagon faces another $52 billion budget cut in 2014 unless Congress and the White House come up with a deficit-reduction plan other than sequestration. That looks increasingly unlikely.
These staff cuts are a small fraction of the Defense Department’s 2.1 million active-duty troops and civilians and would save an estimated $1.5 billion to $2 billion over five years. Hagel acknowledges they won’t cure the budget problems, but he correctly says that headquarters must share in the pain.
Given the flow of red ink in Washington and the bigger cuts that are looming, Hagel’s plan is a prudent step toward shrinking that bureaucracy.