Gates details high-level Defense job cuts

The Defense Department will cut hundreds of officer positions, top civilian executives and contractor jobs by the end of fiscal 2011, according to the Pentagon's chief.

In a just-released March 14 memo, Defense Secretary Robert Gates followed through on an earlier promise and directed Pentagon officials to eliminate the positions of 102 general and flag officers, along with those of 176 civilian senior executives and 33 highly qualified experts. An additional 23 officer jobs will be downgraded.

The guidance also reduces contractor support departmentwide, including 1,000 positions in the Missile Defense Agency during the next two years. Officials estimate a $225 million savings in fiscal 2012 as a result. The TRICARE Management Activity will lose 364 contractor jobs, while the undersecretary for Defense policy will drop 110 positions. The cuts will save $36.4 million and $21.6 million in fiscal 2012, respectively.

Coupled with additional efficiencies across the department, the plan will save more than $14 billion, according to the memo. Most of the actions identified will be complete by Sept. 30, Gates wrote.

The cuts are part of a broad initiative to reduce overhead, improve business practices and end troubled programs at Defense. Gates in August 2010 announced plans to eliminate redundant organizations, reduce funding for support contractors, freeze personnel levels and cut jobs. In January, he identified $154 billion in efficiencies, including a fee hike for military retirees eligible for TRICARE health care coverage, a three-year hiring freeze and cuts to U.S. fighting forces. The cuts also come at a time when the defense budget, for the first time in more than a decade, is being considered for reductions on Capitol Hill.

Each military service will be required to report on opportunities for additional restructuring and cost savings by March 31. According to a Defense spokeswoman, the department will take prompt action to comply with the memo's instructions.

The memo was made public after a copy had been leaked, and summarized on Tuesday in InsideDefense.com and published the next day in Wired magazine.

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