bowl-of-white-riceMid-week brings up a few issues that we should be watching as the budget battles and the new SECDEF’s restructuring starts to shape facts on the ground.

First off the bat is the best news of the week from SECDEF Hagel. Some may say it is pocket change, but it really isn’t. More than anything else, this sets the tone and has out front who should already be there. Good start and hopefully generates some desired 2nd-order effects. Via Craig Whitlock at WaPo;

Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said Tuesday that he has ordered a 20 percent cut in the number of top brass and senior civilians at the Pentagon by 2019, the latest attempt to shrink the military bureaucracy after years of heady growth.

Hagel’s directive could force the Pentagon and military command staffs to shed an estimated 3,000 to 5,000 jobs. That’s a tiny percentage of the Defense Department’s 2.1 million active-duty troops and civilian employees, but analysts said it would be a symbolically important trimming of the upper branches of the bureaucracy, which has proved to be resistant to past pruning attempts.

Exactly. We went through PTS and ERB while the senior levels floated at anchor. If done in conjunction with Staff restructuring, significant efficiencies on the admin side of the house at least will be in order.

Late Tuesday, Pentagon spokesman George Little estimated that Hagel’s order would result in total savings that “could be in the range” of $1.5 billion to $2 billion over five years. In a statement, he said that the number of job cuts was yet to be determined and that they wouldn’t begin until 2015.

In 2010, then-Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates ordered a three-year freeze on staffing in his office, the Joint Staff and the military combatant commands. But a recent analysis by Defense News, a trade publication, found that the size of those staffs nevertheless has grown by about 15 percent.

You can buy a lot of training for $2.1 billion in 5 years. We’ll take it.

That is the official side – and when you start taking away people’s parking spaces and personal staff – that will create a bit of friction down at the Potomac Flotilla tactical level.

On the unofficial side, the real fireworks will take place when, and I believe it will, as the concept raised by Zachary Keck at TheDiplomat continues to set its roots;

… the different services within the armed forces have long been treated with near perfect equality.

That’s at least one implication of the Golden Ratio principle of defense budgeting, whereby the three different services—the Army, Navy (including Marines), and Air Force—receive a constant and nearly equal share of the defense budget. As Travis Sharp, one of the most outspoken critics of the Golden Ratio, explains: “Since fiscal year 1948, the Army, Navy, and Air Force have on average received 28 percent, 31 percent, and 33 percent, respectively, of DOD’s annual budget. Hot war, cold war, or no war – the allotment of the services’ budgets has remained relatively constant over time.”

However, with the post-9/11 wars winding down, a potential future peer competitor emerging, and austerity taking hold, the U.S. no longer needs nor can it afford to continue obliging the military equality of the Golden Ratio.

For one thing, the shift to the Indo-Pacific, as well as the declining utility of large ground forces, eliminates the strategic rationale of holding the three armed services in equal esteem, at least when it comes to the allocation of resources.

Now THAT is something that will keep a lot of people busy for the rest of the decade.

Posted by CDRSalamander in Policy
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  • Matthew Hipple

    An important implication as well is that younger, fresher minds will be making the decisions: fewer wringing hands at the top. Perhaps the “Mod Squad” might return one day. For all the arguments about fresh attitudes and innovation, we JO’s are also cheaper.

    • grandpabluewater

      The other shoe, per Navy Times, is pay cuts to active and retired service members of all ranks. Prudence dictates I refrain from comment and retire to a cool dark room to take tomorrow’s blood pressure meds today.

  • TheMightyQ

    Maybe SECDEF liked the CNO’s plan to get rid of paperwork so much he recognized that the only way to do so was to get rid of the people coming up with the b.s. requirements in the first place.

    “Dans ce pays-ci, il est bon de tuer de temps en temps un amiral pour encourager les autres.”

  • Byron Audler

    At first I thought, “Wow! That’s awesome!” and then I realized they weren’t going to pare down to 20%, it was the other way around. Sorry SECDEF, nice try, but you’re not even halfway there.

  • CAPT Mongo

    We’ve been here before, and the only result has been a bunch of lateral arabesques in the puzzle palace accompanied by “Transformational” name changes (Translation: “Smoke and mirrors”) and no fundamental change at all. We’ll see; but a good start would be to eliminate all of the “Diversity” staff.

  • Look at the suspense date: 2019. Hagel is not serious.

  • Taxpayer71

    1. Pentagon maxim: “It takes flag officer involvement to ‘screw’ up a good action.”

    2. O-6s do it better and with less noise. Let them earn their pay.

    3. Smaller OSD and Joint Staff have good attributes: forced to work the important problems and less time to micro-manage commands, agencies and services.

    4. If looking for bloat look at the multitude of contracts let to support OSD and Joint Staff in performance of their functions. As an example look at the “egg sucking” requirements in CJCSI 6212.01F, the contractors that live off this gift, and the limited return in interoperability.

  • RightCowLeftCoast

    Hopefully the cost savings, if any actually materialize, from the reduction of flag and general officers (and their accompanying staff) will actually be returned to the operating forces of the Department of Defense, and not swallowed up by the ever growing entitlement/nanny state whose share of the overall federal government budget increases year after year.
    At the current rate of spending the taxpayers will not be able to purchase bullets and butter while paying for the debt caused by present and past administrations. What military will we have when we can no longer afford one? I have seen those in leadership talk about climate change as a defense issue, with that same mindset, wouldn’t the American federal debt, and the balance of the federal budget be a defense issue as well?