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Think Tanks Call For Massive Pentagon Personnel Cuts Under BCA

Four D.C. think tanks took a crack at cutting the Pentagon's budget under sequestration. CSBA Image

Four D.C. think tanks took a crack at cutting the Pentagon’s budget under sequestration. CSBA Image

Four D.C. think tanks took a crack at balancing the Department of Defense’s budget if the Pentagon has to weather ten years of ten percent across-the-board sequestration budget cuts sequestration on Wednesday.

The consensus of the four (American Enterprise Institute, Center for a New American Security, Center for Strategic and International Studies and Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessment) was unanimous.

First, cut the Department of Defense’s civilian employees – including shipyard and depot workers. Then reduce the services’ end strength – particularly the Army’s.

Next you go after what kind of Navy you can afford, and analyze how many pricey aircraft carriers could be cut.
The quartet protected investments in undersea sensors, underwater unmanned vehicles, unmanned ground vehicles, ground and sea-based defenses and railgun technology. Funds also followed for cyber warfare and protected satellite communications. If there is some money left to spend, improve global positioning systems.

Former Under Secretary of the Navy Robert Work said if the full Budget Control Act runs its course into 2023, “We will go back to 1975 where I’m buying toilet paper for my Marines.”

While this was a think tank exercise, the stakes are high. The Defense Department is expected to complete its internal strategic choices management review by the end of the month and brief Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel when he returns from an overseas trip starting in Singapore and ending in Brussels in early June on what to expect if sequestration and a Continuing Resolution — instead of an approved budget — remain in place.

The exercise, organized by the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments, took the “generous assumption,” in the words analyst Todd Harrison, that the Pentagon’s personnel requests called for in its budget are in place: 1 percent pay raise and higher military healthcare fees.
(The House Armed Services subcommittee markups already torpedoed Pentagon requests to curb spending on military personnel for another year).

There were two scenarios in the exercise:
1. Come up with $522 billion in cuts between now and 2023.
2.Find half those savings — $247 billion — in the same time frame.

Looking at the Navy, Work declared, “smaller, smaller, smaller.”

He wants Aegis-equipped Arleigh Burke-class destroyers and Littoral Combat Ships merged into a high-low mix that does not include older Ticonderoga-class cruisers. He called for retiring the cruisers already in the fleet earlier than planned. He also wanted investments in combat logistics ships and minesweepers.

All the think tanks agreed anywhere from two to four carriers would need to come out of the fleet over the next 20 years.
Jim Thomas — an analyst with Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments — said his team “was not focused on fleet size,” but capabilities, particularly in unmanned autonomous systems and directed energy.

All agreed on cutting the civilian workforce anywhere from 82,000 to 263,000 under either BCA scenario and called for new rounds of base realignment.

Today, there are about 800,000 Defense Department civilians. Before the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, there were about 600,000.

The active-duty land forces would be especially hard hit.

The Army’s end strength could fall to 327,000 under the Center for Strategic and International Studies scenarios or remain at 450,000 under one American Enterprise Institute scenario.

AEI was particularly tough on the Marine Corps, taking its active-duty end strength down to 135,000, 35,000 below its post-World War II historic low.

Clark Murdock from CSIS kept the active-duty Marine Corps at its present 182,000 level under both scenarios and increased Marine readiness spending to meet its expeditionary mission.

Under both scenarios the think tanks set the Navy’s active-duty end strength would be set at 240,000 to 288,000.

“[Personnel] is where we get the savings,” Work said.
“Congress has got to quit kidding itself.”

Work said his team’s focus was preserving autonomous and robotic systems and an industrial base that can produce them while realizing our adversaries will be truly hybrid in their abilities to fight.

Work suggested re-running the exercise with different kinds of BRAC propositions on compensation, health care and infrastructure and gives Congress a package to vote up or down. Harrison said that 10 Washington-based think tanks would discuss a letter they are sending Congress on the impact of the cuts at a Monday meeting in the Russell Senate office Building.

  • Vet w/o ret 40G Gross Civ Svc

    Balance (not bounce) the budget: Ground AR One for six months! Limit Parisian shopping trips for little girls, trips to Africa (unless it’s a one-way), etc. AF1 only cost about $200,000 per HOUR – that’s AF1 alone…exclusive of entroague! Ground AF1 NOW!!! Take the bus!

  • Osamas Pajamas

    Lunacy. OhBummer is having a tantrum and inflicting pain in dangerous places. In his view, Leviathan can only grow and never shrink, so that Unkle Skum will always and forevermore be bloated, obese, and monstrous. But the key to a great national defense is a riproaring economy, and to OhBummer, this is unfair. Shhhh. Whisper. Unkle Skum dislikes critics.

  • While the military does not seem to know for sure, we have nearly 1,000 military bases around the world. It seems like cutting 10% of the budget would include closing some of those and would not require commanders to buy toilet paper for their subordinates.


    Yes, cut the Army down to “we’re not occupying another nation” size and get the Marines back to their “operating from the sea” size. Fine.

    Close half the CONUS bases. They’re a tremendous burden with regards to overhead. Cancel LCS and JSF. Buy more Super Hornets, DDGs, and subs. Plus up Special Forces in all branches; add enough capability to detach SOF to CIA where they have more freedom of action. Those guys get things done.

    Slash GOFO billets by 50% and save all the personal and professional staff billets associated with serving those GOFOs directly.

    Eliminate conference attendance and hosting, period. Not meetings where things get done, but conferences and awards ceremonies, gone. Bands? Use an iPOD and speaker system. Demonstration teams. Gone. Air show attendance and flybys, gone for good. Fleet weeks. Gone.

    RIMPAC, Ulichi Freedom Guardian, UNITAS, Northern Edge, Keen Edge, Talisman Saber, Foal Eagle, etc., etc., etc., consolidate, justify, eliminate, minimize, slash.

    Cut the crap (trying to show pain) of cutting control towers and radar approach services and slice away the non-functional fat, which there is plenty of. Quit buying things we don’t need; man, train, and equip the force then maintain what we have scrupulously instead of buying replacements.

    • john dierking

      are you really serious? May I bring up the idea that national defense is one of the very few authorities granted the federal government in writing in the Constitution? Your recommendations seem intent on making the military fit the budget instead of real world needs, instead of making the budget meet the real world needs

      • GIMPGIMP

        I am serious, and know from experience that a significant portion of the defense budget is expended on “tail” and not “tooth.”

        Unwanted bases and broken acquisition programs exist purely for the purpose of satisfying political vice defense requirements.

        Major staffs spend a significant portion of their budgets and manpower fighting internecine Pentagon budget and political battles that provide zero defense value.

        Defense is critical to this nation and a significant portion of the defense budget purchases no defense. That needs to be fixed immediately. The budget, stripped of political and corporate giveaways, could buy much more actual defense than it does.

        The budget is bloated and irrational. Cutting Major staffs, broken acquisition programs, and useless bases can give the nation more defense for less money.

        • john dierking

          some agreement there, but not completely. Would you accept that the truth lies somewhere in the middle? We still need a robust military because bad guys will indeed try to take us out. Or do you disagree? China, ISIS, Russia,?

  • Marcd30319

    Why not shrink the oceans while you’re at it.

  • Masonic1776

    The military hasn’t had an audit in ten years. 8 trillion dollars have been consumed by this monstrosity since then. The Pentagon accounting office was destroyed on 9/11 hours after Rumsfeld announced approx. 2 trillion dollars was unaccounted for.
    Sequestration my @$$.

  • john dierking

    these think tanks, are they really that out of touch with reality? Is their political stance transparent enough to be released to the public along with their recommendations?