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Hagel presses forth on 20% cut to HQ staffs

Dec. 13, 2013 - 06:00AM   |  
By SEAN REILLY Staff writer   |   Comments
Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said his aim is to 'streamline OSD, making it more agile.' (AFP/Getty Images)

Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel pressed ahead this month with an offensive to prune his office’s bureaucracy, saying that he had told underlings to begin implementing plans for 20 percent manpower and funding cuts by 2019.

While much of the savings in the Office of the Secretary of Defense will come from contractor cuts, the federal civilian workforce also faces reductions, Hagel said at a Pentagon news conference. Besides savings estimated at more than $1 billion by 2019, he added, “our goal is to use this opportunity to streamline OSD, making it more agile and responsive.”

Individual offices undergoing “significant changes” have until March to get their plans together, a spokesman said later. As part of the same restructuring, the Defense Department will also eliminate four deputy assistant defense secretary jobs and seek to strengthen the post of deputy chief management officer.

Hagel had outlined the framework for the reductions in July as an outgrowth of his “Strategic Choices and Management Review.” While the projected savings represent a fraction of DoD’s half-trillion-dollar annual budget, the top-level downsizing carries symbolic weight as the department continues to cut uniformed military personnel and its rank-and-file workforce. A 2010 review found that OSD employed 5,000 civilians, contractors and service members.

Hagel “had to show he was getting serious about cleaning up his own house ... before going out and asking others to do the same,” said Todd Harrison, senior fellow at the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments, a think tank on defense issues.

But as an Obama administration appointee, Hagel will likely be long gone by 2019. Another analyst questioned whether the economizing will stick. At the news conference, Hagel did not specify what tasks OSD will no longer do, said Maren Leed, a former Pentagon official now at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, another think tank.

“If you keep the workload the same, the people will come back,” Leed said. In response, Navy Cmdr. Bill Urban, the DoD spokesman, said the department is confident that the reorganization will result in “lasting reductions to our staffing levels.”

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