Gates announces major job cuts as Pentagon looks to cut spending

Defense Secretary Robert Gates announced Monday dozens of cuts to senior military and contractor positions and the elimination of a major military command.

The moves are part of an effort to streamline Pentagon spending. Gates is trying to find $100 billion in Defense savings over the next five years in order to instill a “culture of savings and restraint” in the military.

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“It is important that we not repeat the mistakes of the past, where tough economic times or the winding down of a military campaign leads to steep and unwise reductions in defense,” Gates said in a statement.

“As a matter of principle and political reality, the Department of Defense cannot expect America's elected representatives to approve budget increases each year unless we are doing a good job, indeed everything possible, to make every dollar count.”

While the cuts wouldn’t reduce the overall military budget, they would help eliminate excess spending and allow funds to be used for needed resources, the Pentagon said.

Gates said he has ordered a 10 percent cut to spending on intelligence advisory contractors, the elimination of 50 general and admiral positions, the reduction of senior civilian positions by 150 and the closure of the Joint Forces Command in Norfolk, Va. About 2,800 military personnel and 3,000 civilians work at that command, which has focused on transforming the military’s capabilities.

Rep. Glenn Nye (D-Va.), who represents the district impacted by the closing, said the proposal from Gates was "short-sighted and without merit."

"I appreciate the department's attempt to rein in spending, but I have yet to see any substantive analysis to support the assertion that closing JFCOM will yield large savings," Nye said in a statement. 

Nye faces a difficult re-election challenge this year.

President Obama said the cuts are important both to national security and to his administration’s effort to make government more open and responsive.

“The funds saved will help us sustain the current force structure and make needed investments in modernization in a fiscally responsible way,” Obama said in a statement.

Gates’s latest steps to overhaul the Pentagon budget come as Congress and the administration are trying to grapple with the $13 trillion debt and deficits expected to average nearly $1 trillion over the next decade.

Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), who has said Defense spending should be scrutinized along with the rest of the federal budget, praised Gates’s announcement.

“He took a hard look at the Defense Department’s budget and made tough decisions to cut expenses and freeze spending,” she said in a statement.

“He ensured that his fiscal proposals would give our service members everything they need to succeed in combat. In a critical step, the secretary announced we would reduce our reliance on private contractors — putting critical functions of national security where they belong: in the hands of sworn and highly-trained military and intelligence officials.”