Defense Secretary Hagel announces staff cuts on eve of Pearl Harbor anniversary

McClatchy Washington BureauDecember 4, 2013 

Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel on Wednesday decided to lead by example as he unveiled a Pentagon reorganization plan that features cutting 200 jobs from his office over five years.

While Hagel acknowledged that the $1 billion he said will be saved is a tiny share of overall military spending, he said it will free up money currently spent on administrative work for more important tasks.

"Every dollar that we save by reducing the size of our headquarters and back-office operations is a dollar that can be invested in war-fighting capabilities and readiness," Hagel told reporters at a Pentagon briefing.

Hagel again criticized Congress for having imposed broad, forced annual cuts of about $50 billion on the Defense Department through a system called sequestration.

"As I've said before, sequestration is irresponsible and poses an unnecessary risk to our military's ability to accomplish its mission and our readiness," he said. "Congress should roll back sequestration and fully fund the president's budget request, which provides the department with the time, the flexibility and the certainty needed to strategically our military to a postwar posture."

A senior defense official, who asked not to be identified in order to provide details of the plan, said the staff cuts Hagel announced would reduce the number of employees in the Office of the Secretary of Defense from 2,400 to less than 2,200 military and civilian personnel.

Hagel said most of the staff cuts will occur through attrition, with contract employees taking the brunt of the hit and some civilian workers also being impacted.

Hagel also announced a broader overhaul of the Pentagon's labyrinthine organizational chart in which several high-level offices will be consolidated and a handful of senior posts will be eliminated.

Gen. Martin E. Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said longer-term challenges emerging from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan include slowing the growth rate in costs for pay and healthcare, closing excess infrastructure and reforming acquisition methods.

"The goal is ... to get out of this pattern where things are acquired and delivered too slowly and too expensively," Dempsey said.

Hagel thanked Ashton Carter for his service as deputy defense secretary, and he welcomed Carter's replacement, Christine H. Fox.

Carter worked his last day Wednesday. Fox will serve as acting deputy secretary of defense until the Senate confirms her appointment by President Barack Obama.  

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