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Hagel orders cuts for Pentagon headquarters

US Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel briefs the press at the Pentagon in Washington, DC, on May 17, 2013
US Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel briefs the press at the Pentagon in Washington, DC, on May 17, 2013. Hagel has ordered a 20 percent cut in funding for the Pentagon's top civilian and military headquarters by 2019, saying everyone has to "do their part."

Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel has ordered a 20 percent cut in funding for the Pentagon's top civilian and military headquarters by 2019, saying everyone has to "do their part."

Hagel announced the order Tuesday during a visit to a naval air base in Jacksonville, Florida, portraying the move as a signal that no element of the military's bureaucracy would be immune from budget pressures.

Previous Pentagon leaders also have tried -- with little success -- to scale back the top-heavy bureaucracy.

These past efforts have taken aim at the large number of well-paid civilian officials and senior officers who work for the Joint Staff and the Office of the Secretary of Defense, a mini-administration that supports the Pentagon chief.

Hagel's spokesman, George Little, said the newly proposed reduction would result in savings of roughly $1.5 billion to $2 billion over five years, which by itself would not solve the Defense Department's budget woes.

While acknowledging the cut "isn't going to fix the problem," Hagel said "everybody has got to do their part," including the top brass and most senior officials.

"So everybody is going to have to do something here. Everybody is going to have to pay a price. Everybody is going to have to make a contribution," Hagel told an audience of troops and civilian employees.

The US military's top ranking officer, General Martin Dempsey, also issued a similar order, directing a 20 percent cut in the offices of Joint Staff, Hagel said.

The precise number of civilian and officer positions that would be cut has yet to be decided, Little said in a statement.

Former defense secretary Robert Gates in 2010 ordered a three-year freeze on expanding staff for his office, the Joint Staff and the major military combatant commands.

But the number of personnel has grown by 15 percent since then, according to a report by Defense News.

Hagel made his announcement as part of a three-day "listening tour" of military bases in southern US states, where he has held town-hall style meetings with troops and their families worried about budget uncertainties.

His trip came as the Pentagon comes under growing fiscal pressure, with automatic budget cuts forcing a reduction of $37 billion through the end of the current fiscal year.

To absorb this year's reductions, Hagel imposed an 11-day furlough for most of the Defense Department's civilian workforce.

With no sign of Congress breaking an impasse over the federal budget, the Pentagon faces the prospect of yet more automatic cuts next year that could force civilian layoffs and other measures.

Hagel has warned the deeper cuts will undermine the US military's combat power and threaten national security interests.

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