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Pentagon's Gates Outlines More Cost Cuts

Robert Gates

hide captionSecretary of Defense Robert Gates spelled out more cuts he'd like to see in Pentagon spending. 

Manuel Balce Ceneta/AP

Defense Secretary Robert Gates has made reducing and redirecting the Pentagon's huge budget a priority.

On Monday, he pushed forward his initiative on that front. Included among the ideas he laid out is a recommendation to eliminate one of the military's nine commands, the Joint Forces Command which is called Jiffycom by some. That command employs employs about 5,000 people, both uniformed military and private sector.

As NPR's Tom Bowman reported for the network's radio newscast.

TOM: What Gates wants to cut is called the Joint Forces Command, based in Norfolk, Va., that employs 3,000 private contractors.

The command was created a decade ago to get the military services to work more closely together, but Gates says that's now largely been achieved.

Gates also wants to reduce the Pentagon's dependency on those outside contractors.

GATES: To accelerate this process and achieve additional savings, I have directed that we  reduce funding for service supported contractors by 10 percent per year for each of the next three years.

Gates told reporters that 200 Pentagon contractors work full-time just writing reports ordered by Congress.

Any money saved in these cutbacks, says Gates, will be used to help modernize the military.

The American Forces Press Service has a fairly comprehensive report on the briefing Gates gave reporters Monday. It contained this background on why the cuts are needed:

Money saved with these efficiencies will go back into funding needed military capabilities. “To be clear, the task before us is not to reduce the department’s top-line budget,” Gates said. “Rather, it is to significantly reduce its excess overhead costs and apply the savings to force structure and modernization.”

President Barack Obama has programmed in real growth of between 1 and 2 percent into future years’ defense budgets, but that is not enough to maintain today’s warfighting capabilities and modernize, which requires roughly 2 to 3 percent real growth. The savings in overhead are crucial to making up that difference, Gates said.

Gates continues to target political sacred cows for extinction, both weapons programs and bases that are so spread out across the county as to impact many congressional districts. He realizes he doesn't have the political wind at his back on this one, just the opposite.

Another excerpt from the Armed Forces Press Service's report on Monday's briefing:

Gates also authorized the services to consider consolidation or closure of excess bases and other facilities. It is a measure of Gates’ determination to save money that he has proposed this, he noted, since Congress has made it almost impossible to close bases. “But hard is not impossible, and I hope Congress will work with us to reduce unnecessary costs in this part of the defense enterprise,” he said.

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