Skip to Main Content

POGO Obtains DoD Memo on 20 Percent HQ Spending Cut

Chuck Hagel

Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel

Our Tabke Box

A July 31, 2013, memorandum from the Deputy Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter outlines Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel’s decision to instate “a 20% cut in management headquarters spending throughout the Department of Defense (DoD).” The Project On Government Oversight was able to obtain the memo, which can be found here.

According to the memo:

The 20% cut applies to the total headquarters budgets. Total headquarters budgets include government civilian personnel who work at headquarters and associated costs including contract services, facilities, information technology, and others that support headquarters functions.


This 20% reduction represents an additional cut, which I know will be challenging. However, in this period of additional downward pressure on defense spending, we must continue to reduce our headquarters budgets and staffing.

These reductions will likely hit staff the hardest; offices are directed to attempt to cut 20 percent of both civilian and military headquarter staff.

While the memo urges for the cuts to be “made aggressively and as soon as possible,” it also recommends a gradual implementation in which affected offices cut one-fifth of their budget each year for the next five years.

These cuts are part of the Strategic Choices and Management Review initiated by Hagel to “help ensure the Department of Defense is prepared in the face of unprecedented budget uncertainty.” His announcement comes as lawmakers battle over the creation of a deficit-reduction plan, a continuance of talks that led to March’s sequestration. If an agreement cannot be reached, $52 billion is scheduled to be cut from the 2014 DoD budget request.

But how noteworthy are these headquarters spending cuts? A DoD spokesperson stated that over the next five years, these cuts to headquarters could save the Department $1.5 to $2 billion dollars. With gargantuan budget cuts looming, Hagel needs to make more significant cuts. Twenty percent is barely a significant start; it will not make a dent in the bloated defense budget.  

Additionally, it will be interesting to see whether these cuts are biased towards lower-grade employees (which is typically the trend). Hagel should also reconsider whether any legitimate reason exists for delaying the total implementation of these cuts for the five years recommended in the memo.

It is encouraging that these cuts are reducing DoD’s budget. It is unfortunate, however, that the memo recommends reducing federal civilian staff while making no similar recommendation regarding contractors. We already know the Department wastes money on contracted services; it’s time for the DoD to start focusing on that area, as well.

Image from the U.S. Department of State.

By: Jack Scher
Intern, POGO

Photograph of Jack Scher Jack Scher is an intern for the Project On Government Oversight.

Topics: National Security

Related Content: Budget, Defense, Sequester, Wasteful Defense Spending

Authors: Jack Scher

Submitted by Dfens at: August 4, 2013
We could easily cut the civilian procurement work force by 80% if we would put an end to our "pay incentives for failure" approach to procurement. The only reason we need such a huge procurement work force now is due to the inherit conflict of interest that exists when you pay a contractor to cover their costs plus a profit on development. It's nothing but free money! Do you think the defense contractors don't realize that the more "problems" they have during the development process and the more they can drag things out, the more money they make? Only the US taxpayer is ignorant of that fact. The defense contractors knew this was a great scam for profiting off stupidity when they first proposed this scam. The government should only buy weapons developed at the contractor's expense. Then they could fire 99% of the procurement bureaucrats because they wouldn't need them. All they'd need is a few troops to test the weapons and pick out the best of them. But hell, why go back to what worked when what we have now is failing our troops and the US taxpayer so spectacularly?
Submitted by Tom in Ucity at: August 1, 2013
Former DOD agency HQ civilian employee here says that what needs to be cut is the frequent and unnecessary duplication of having civilian chief and military deputy or vice-versa. These are usually just resting places in military careers with such frequent rotations that by the time officer is up to speed, it is time to move on. Cut all these military slots and let the civilians do the jobs without the token military participation. This must include cutting the number of officers in the military, not just these assignments.

Leave A Comment

Enter this word: Change

Related Posts

Browse POGOBlog by Topic

POGO on Facebook

POGOBlog Contributors

See All Blog Contributors

Latest Podcast

Podcast; Social Media, Internet Provides Opportunities, Challenges for Lawmakers

The Congressional Management Foundation offers the Gold Mouse Awards annually to members of Congress who make the most of the opportunity the digital world offers them. POGO spoke with members of Rep. Mike Honda's communications team about their award.