WASHINGTON — US Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel wants a person from outside the Defense Department to oversee the daunting task of reducing military headquarters by a 20 percent.
But even after those cuts are made, the Pentagon needs to keep an “enforcer” in a position of authority to make sure the cuts stick, experts say. Such a move would institutionalize the temporary job of overseeing the cuts called for by Hagel.
There “needs to be a longer-term solution that really strengthens, streamlines and puts in the very tough management chain of command similar to what we have on the operational chain of command with the combatant commanders,” said Arnold Punaro, a retired Marine Corps major general and former Senate staffer who now chairs the Reserve Forces Policy Board.
“There’s no doubt in anybody’s mind when a combatant commander makes a decision, that it’s carried out,” he said. “As we see on the bureaucratic side of the Pentagon — or the management side — it may or may not be carried out.” he said.
Last month, Hagel called for budget and staff reductions within the Office of the Secretary of Defense, Joint Staff, service headquarters, combatant commands and other headquarters activities.
The size of the Pentagon headquarters grew by more than 15 percent from 2010 to 2012, despite efforts to pare the DoD bureaucracy, a Defense News analysis in June found.
Punaro, who has been a vocal champion of reducing Pentagon staff sizes, said that while he typically views calls for staff reductions with skepticism due to failed efforts to trim personnel in the past, he is encouraged this time will be different due to the way the draw down is structured.
“I don’t think the people are going to be able to hide from the reductions and the cuts and the streamlining,” Punaro said.
In addition to headquarters staffs, Hagel has called for cuts within intelligence analysis and production at combatant commands and operations centers, “which will also foster closer integration and reduce duplication across the defense enterprise.”
Hagel has directed Deputy Defense Secretary Ashton Carter to assign a person from outside DoD to oversee the staff reductions.
“Senior managers should ensure that cuts are made aggressively and as soon as possible, both to eliminate uncertainty for our employees and contractors and to maximize savings,” Carter wrote in a July 31 memo.
Reductions plans are due with internal service budget submissions on Sept. 23.
Carter said the headquarters should make 1⁄5 of the total cut each year beginning in 2015 and ending in 2019.
“To the extent feasible, some cuts should begin in FY 2014 in order to increase savings and reduce the cuts required in later years,” he said.