The Defense Department will reduce its senior ranks and freeze civilian staffing levels, Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates said Friday.
“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 2010 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.
“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, 2010, 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.