GAO: DoD needs a plan to cut more headquarters jobs

GAO: DoD needs a plan to cut more headquarters jobs

By law, the Defense Department must eliminate 13,300 positions in its headquarters by the end of 2002. But so far the Pentagon has only identified 5,600 jobs to cut, according to a new General Accounting Office report.

DoD does not have a plan to meet the requirement to reduce 25 percent of headquarters personnel by 2002, GAO said in its report, "Defense Headquarters: Status of Efforts to Reduce Headquarters Personnel" (NSIAD-99-45). Congress set the downsizing target in the 1998 National Defense Authorization Act. DoD needs to find 7,700 additional jobs to cut to meet its goal.

DoD asked Congress to repeal the headquarters reduction requirement on the grounds that the downsizing would put an unreasonable burden on the personnel who remained. But Congress refused.

The military departments have proposed a joint task force to review ways to reduce the Pentagon's headquarters structure, including automation, reengineering and outsourcing. The proposal would allow each service to reinvest money saved from personnel or position cutbacks.

When Defense Secretary William Cohen took office in 1997, the Office of the Secretary of Defense had more than 3,000 employees. Since then, Cohen has cut about 1,000 of those positions. The office is more than 90 percent of the way toward meeting its goal, and expects to complete the cuts by the end of fiscal 1999.

Despite recent reductions in headquarters positions, overall civilian salary costs at the Defense Department have not decreased, the report said.

One reason is that DoD may not be accurately counting its staff. Detailees temporarily assigned to the Office of the Secretary of Defense are not counted as part of the office's personnel, but the number of such temporary employees may be large, GAO reported. DoD does not have a central database that tracks detailees and the positions they hold.

Also, many of the 1,123 headquarters positions DoD had eliminated as of 1998 resulted from abolishing vacant positions, transferring positions to other DoD organizations and eliminating positions through reorganization, GAO reported.

"Salary costs did not decline commensurate with the personnel reductions partly because many of the positions eliminated were vacant and annual civilian pay raises exceeded the inflation rate," the report said.

In a response to GAO's report, David O. "Doc" Cooke, the Pentagon's director of administration and management said efforts to downsize DoD headquarters have been successful.

"One of the messages we learned from the private sector is that headquarters should perform policy and oversight functions, not day-to-day program management," Cooke wrote. "The Secretary strongly agrees with this philosophy and has followed private industry's lead in this area."