DOD seeks to cut, downgrade executive jobs

209 senior-level DOD civilian positions on chopping block

The Defense Department plans to eliminate or downgrade more than 200 senior-level civilian jobs.

The agency is in the process of cutting 209 civilian senior executive positions, with 126 to be eliminated and 83 downgraded to GS-15 positions, DOD officials have confirmed to Federal Times.

In a briefing Jan. 6, Defense Secretary Robert Gates said he would eliminate 28 general-officer and flag-officer billets tied to the wars in Southwest Asia and would downgrade or eliminate 80 more from the four services, the Office of the Secretary of Defense and the combatant commands.

Gates also said he would direct the elimination of nearly 200 civilian senior executive or equivalent positions, out of a total of 1,400 civilian executives.


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Most of the senior-level jobs now in jeopardy — 97 — are non-intelligence Senior Executive Service members. An additional 21 senior-level or scientific and professional positions and 33 “highly qualified experts” will be cut.

DOD will also do away with five intelligence SES members and 53 intelligence senior-level employees.

Last month, Gates criticized the excessive defense organizations that have sprung up since the 2001 terrorist attacks and said the roles, including those in intelligence, would face elimination or consolidation as part of wide reforms.

“Since Sept. 11, the U.S. government as a whole has seen a proliferation of new intelligence organizations, many that are excess and duplicative, many that are spread out among the different services, agencies, task forces of various kinds and combatant commands,” Gates said.

“The monetary savings from these reductions in senior personnel will be relatively modest, and mostly consist of the extra staff and amenities that by tradition follow high rank,” he added. “The primary purpose behind this shift is to create fewer, flatter, more agile and thus more effective organizations.”

In addition to plans to eliminate or downgrade senior positions, Gates previously detailed plans to freeze the number of civilian senior executive and general-officer and flag-officer positions at fiscal 2010 levels.

He also pledged to target superfluous senior-level jobs that have arisen from a DOD culture that is out of sync with today's realities.

“We have seen an acceleration of what [former] Sen. John Glenn [D-Ohio] more than 20 years ago called ‘brass creep,’ a situation where personnel of higher and higher rank are assigned to do things that could reasonably be handled by personnel of lower rank,” Gates said in August 2010.

“In some cases, this creep is fueled by the desire to increase bureaucratic clout or prestige of a particular service, function or region, rather than reflecting the scope and duties of the job itself," he added. DOD "continues to maintain a top-heavy hierarchy that more reflects 20th-century protocols than 21st-century realities.”

About the Author

Amber Corrin is a former staff writer for FCW and Defense Systems.

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