Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said Tuesday that he had ordered a 20 percent cut in the number of top brass and senior civilians at the Pentagon by 2019, the latest attempt to shrink the military bureaucracy after years of heady growth.
Hagel's directive could force the Pentagon and military command staffs to shed an estimated 3,000 to 5,000 jobs. That's a tiny percentage of the Defense Department's 2.1 million active-duty troops and civilian employees, but analysts said it would be a symbolically important trimming of the upper branches of the bureaucracy, which has proved to be resistant to past pruning attempts.
"It's all relative for a bureaucracy that has hardly been touched by a human hand over the past decade," said Arnold Punaro, a retired Marine general and member of the Defense Business Board, which advises the Pentagon on financial matters. "But a 20 percent cut is pretty dramatic."
Speaking to troops during a visit to the Jacksonville Naval Air Station in Florida, Hagel said the cutbacks would apply to the Office of the Secretary of Defense and the Joint Staff, as well as Pentagon headquarters staffs for the armed forces. Hagel did not give further details.
Because of a process known as sequestration, the Pentagon has already been forced to trim its spending by $37 billion this year.