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Gates' budget cuts: Sharing the pain

Stop me if this sounds like your place of work.

On any given assignment, there's at least three people to whom you report. Meetings are filled with more people in management than people doing the work. And when it comes time for downsizings, the bottom 80% gets deeply slashed while the top 20% is barely touched.

Like seemingly every organization, the military is top-heavy--so much so, in fact, that Defense chairman Robert Gates announced this week that he will be cutting five percent of the armed forces' general and senior-ranking officers, a move that has the country's brass "squealing," writes the Post's Craig Whitlock. There are, he reports, 40 four-star generals and admirals, more than there were during the Vietnam War, even though the number of active-duty troops has diminished by nearly half.

In calling it "brass creep," Gates seems to imply that the too-many-chiefs phenomenon at the Pentagon is the innocent byproduct of an effort to hang onto its best and brightest. And surely, that's partly prompted the problem--many organizations try to hang onto their stars through extra pay, promotions, or responsibility, leading to more and more experienced hands on hand. That's a good thing--until, of course, there's too many of them.

But I'd argue the Pentagon's top-heaviness--or that of any large institution--is really the byproduct of fear. For one, organizations are terrified that when it's time to grow again, they won't have the experienced professionals around to help them compete, manage, or in the military's case, keep the country safe. And they're afraid--generals are human, after all--that cutting their peers will lead to more work for the top rung and make their own jobs look replaceable. If you had the power to prevent that from happening, you might too.

Many will say that Secretary Gates' trim of the top brass doesn't do much to address the Department of Defense's bloated budget. But even if it's a small step, it should have a big impact. By making cuts to jobs at the top, the rank and file will be reminded that everyone is sharing the pain.

By Jena McGregor

 |  August 13, 2010; 10:56 AM ET |  Category:  Government leadership , Military leadership Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   Del.icio.us   StumbleUpon   Technorati  
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Nowhere to be found in all the talk of government spending; Defense. Now over $700 billion per year. No problem?

Lift up the rock to find more slush funds, overspending and fraud, than even in Medicare...

- Balkingpoints / www

Posted by: RField7 | August 15, 2010 8:19 PM

The first poster sounds like someone close to the Honorable SECDEF. In spite of all the quibbling, go SECDEF, and cut as much as you possibly can to meet your goals - and please do not hesitate while in your firing mode of the Brass. Do we really need U.S. Army Recruiting Command? Is it not redundant? We have the Selective Service - can't they have oversight and run the Recruiting show? I see that the Honorable POTUS appointed a former USAREC employee as the Chief of Selective Service anyway. How are these two agencies not a type of duplication of effort, except that many of the USAREC Generals are out of the office having fun partying at NASCAR, various Rodeos, College and Pro Sporting Events, etc., and jetting around the Country, and to Puerto Rico, Samoa, etc. Save the taxpayer's money! Put the Generals back in their regular MOS's, and take their party hats off!

Posted by: Ghost2010 | August 15, 2010 12:53 AM

Is most everyone who writes for the POST just plain illiterate...or can't understand the English language...or just plain IQ-challenged? Or buys whatever someone in the government spins...hook, line, and sinker? Well, the POST sold out...and gave up its legitimate watchdog role...a long time ago. (The "Top Secret America" series was outstanding...but clearly a rare exception at the POST.)

Under any logical definition...well, except the POST's clearly..."cuts" in anything should mean a reduction. Most everyone at the POST seems to have read only the POST's own misleading headlines on Gates' announcement. "Gates' budget cuts": He announced absolutely no such thing...well, if one believes the POST's own reporting. Gates clearly stated as plainly as anyone possibly could do: he's NOT cutting the Defense Department budget. He's just moving money around...and not all that much: $250 million out of $550 billion. That's minuscule...though you'd never know it from the POST reporting.

To quote one of the initial POST stories: "On Monday, the defense secretary emphasized that he is not seeking to cut the Pentagon's overall budget." Can you guys read at the POST?

And: "Despite soaring federal budget deficits, the Obama administration has asked Congress to increase defense spending next year from $535 billion to $549 billion, not counting the cost of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan." If you can define an "increase" as "budget cuts"...you must speak another language than English. Do you guys at the POST even bother to try to ensure that what you write bears any relationship to the truth?

David Broder also wrote similar complete nonsense the other day.

So, either Craig Whitlock's article was completely erroneous...well, it was pretty poorly written, with one of the most misleading headlines ever seen in the Western world...or your comment here is just...well, only you would know what purpose it serves to completely misportray what Gates announced.

You have to wonder...as a whole lot of people have been doing, of course...exactly what purpose the existence of the POST serves when it can so badly mislead its readers...for what end? Who knows.

(POST writers can't seem to comprehend that US troops in Iraq are being withdrawn under a formal US-Iraqi agreement forced on Bush by the Iraqi Government and signed before Obama took office -- as just another example of the stark divergence between POST writing and accuracy/truth. Just google: Iraq withdrawal agreement. Apparently POST writers and editors don't know how to do that.)

Posted by: Rigged | August 14, 2010 10:02 AM

Up or out is also a culprit.

Posted by: moebius22 | August 13, 2010 11:52 PM

One reason the military is top heavy is that it's structure heavy. We have a military establishment significantly larger than is needed for legitimate "defense." Further, headquarters staffs have become obese in no small part due to Congressional requirements which demand information and staffs to produce it. Meaningful defense savings to alleviate some of our unbeliveable deficit will require significant changes in our national security and defense strategies and substantial reductions in our military forces, which will also serve to discourage adventurism and imperialism by Washington's power elite.

Posted by: MadJack1 | August 13, 2010 4:23 PM

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