Cohen: Cut DoD Civilians

Cohen: Cut DoD Civilians

The Quadrennial Defense Review has revealed a need to check "the tail" as well as "the tooth." So officials are now looking at streamlining the department's civilian side, said Defense Secretary William S. Cohen.

Cohen talked about the ongoing defense review April 6 in an interview during a week-long trip to Asia. The congressionally mandated review requires DoD to examine all aspects of military force structure and defense strategy. While reviewing military infrastructure, Cohen said, officials discovered the need to look at the civilian side of the equation.

After looking at ways to cut military spending, he said, civilian streamlining is an area that needs more attention -- and will receive it. He said he has talked to the Joint Chiefs of Staff and members of Congress, who welcome the effort. "It's something that we all agree has to be done," Cohen said.

The civilian work force has been slimmed, but most of the focus up to now has been on reducing military rolls, said Pentagon spokesman Ken Bacon. Since the end of the Cold War, the active duty military has been cut by 30 percent, from 2.1 million to 1.45 million, he said.

Cohen wants a closer look at ways to make his office and defense agencies more efficient, and he plans to name a panel of management and efficiency experts to sort out overlapping jurisdictions to eliminate redundancy, Bacon said. The panel will look at what needs to be done, how long it will take to do it and how much it will save, he said. "It's an effort to take a hard look at this aspect of the defense establishment," he said.

The quadrennial review is the first step in a long-term process to redefine the military to best meet future challenges, Cohen said. "This is something where you cannot peer into the future and say, 'This is what the future is going to look like, and this is our solution.' It will evolve as a concept over the years."

Cohen is slated to report defense review results to Congress May 15. Preliminary findings about the civilian force will be included in the report, but the complexity of the task requires a thorough examination during the months ahead, he said. The reform panel's efforts will link with the National Defense Panel, which will study the quadrennial review recommendations and report to Congress in December, he said.