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Defense bill calls for reducing number of generals, flag officers

Jun. 10, 2013 - 06:00AM   |  
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Lawmakers are calling on the Pentagon to cut back on its general and flag officers.

Inserted into the annual defense bill passed last week by the House Armed Services Committee was a call for the Defense Department to reduce the total number of officers wearing stars by 14 positions, or less than 2 percent of the total.

There are 924 general and flag officers on active duty, according to the most recent Pentagon data.

The number of high-ranking officers grew by about 10 percent in the decade after 2001, when there were 889 general and flag officers. That rate of growth was higher than the rate for the enlisted ranks and for the force as a whole.

That so-called “brass creep” may have peaked in 2010, when the Pentagon reported 983 officers in paygrades O-7 through O-10.

That was about the time former Defense Secretary Robert Gates cited the number of top-ranking officers as an example of resources being devoted to nonwarfighting capabilities. Gates said cutting senior officer billets — and their accompanying staffs — was one way to reduce overall defense spending.

The House Armed Services Committee’s version of the 2014 National Defense Authorization Act passed on June 6 also ordered the Pentagon to eliminate 10 joint billets. The measure will need approval by the Senate before it becomes law.

The reductions would be in addition to those Gates mandated in 2010. Those long-term plans call for eliminating 102 top jobs over the next several years as current office holders leave and wartime billets go away.

The House committee also ordered the Government Accountability Office to conduct an assessment of how much the senior officer corps costs. The report should review not only the pay and compensation provided to the senior officers but also costs linked to “all officer and enlisted aides assigned to or supporting general or flag officers; the travel and per diem costs of such aides; the annual expenditures for military housing provided the general and flag officers; and other support costs,” according to the bill.

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