U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates on Monday said he recommended the dismantling of Joint Forces Command in a major defense spending cut plan, Xinhua reported.
Gates announced the plan at a Pentagon briefing. He said the command is the arbiter and proponent for joint training, doctrine and operations in the military, but it means an extra layer in the bureaucracy. It is expected to take about a year to dismantle it.
He also eliminates the offices of the assistant secretary of defense for network integration and the Joint Staff's section for command, control, communications, and computer systems, as well as the Business Transformation Agency, which is staffed with 360 people and has a budget of 340 million dollars. The offices will transfer their responsibilities to other offices.
"The services are evaluating their programs and activities to identify what remains a critical priority and what is no longer affordable," Gates said. "They are all planning to eliminate headquarters that are no longer needed and reduce the size of the staffs that remain."
Ray Odierno, currently commander of U.S. forces in Iraq, was tapped to lead the Joint Forces Command, after its former head James Mattis was named last month to replace David Petraeus as head of U.S. Central Command. Petraeus went to lead the U.S. troops in Afghanistan.
Gates said Odierno's appointment to the command won't change, and his task is to eliminate the command. Gates said Odierno supports the decision to dismantle the command, and he promised to find the general a "better job" after the task is completed.
The Virginia-based command is one of ten Unified Combatant Commands of the U.S. armed forces, but it has no responsibility in war plans and operations. Its mission is to lead the transformation of the U.S. military through experimentation and education. To put it simply, it trains troops from different branches of the U.S. military to fight together. The command has about 5,000 employees and its commander is always a four-star general, the highest in current U.S. military.
The plan also includes freezing the number of office of the secretary of defense, defense agency and combatant command manpower positions at the fiscal 2010 levels for the next three years. Gates said he will appoint a senior task force to assess the number of positions for general and flag officers, senior executive service employees and political appointees.
"At a minimum, I expect this effort to cut at least 50 general and flag officer positions and 150 senior civilian executive positions over the next two years," he said.
One of the major components of the plan is to cut the funding for contractor personnel by 10 percent a year over the next three years, reducing what Gates called the military's "over-reliance" on contractors. He said departing contractors would no longer be automatically replaced.
Gates announced in June the Pentagon is working to save 100 billion dollars in cost cuts over the next five years. The plan announced Monday puts meat on the bones of the initiative, and Gates said the steps he is taking in the tough economic times will help the military fight the wars it faces now, and help ready the force for the wars it may face in the future.
"To be clear, the task before us is not to reduce the department's top-line budget," Gates said. "Rather, it is to significantly reduce its excess overhead costs and apply the savings to force structure and modernization."
President Barack Obama has programmed in real growth of between 1 and 2 percent into future years' defense budgets, but that is not enough to maintain today's warfighting capabilities and modernize of the military, which requires roughly 2 to 3 percent real growth. The savings in overhead are crucial to making up that difference, Gates said.