Hagel: Top military brass to be cut 20 percent

JACKSONVILLE, Florida (AP) — Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said Tuesday he has ordered 20 percent “across the top” budget cuts for his Pentagon staff and that of his top brass.

The reductions, which he did not spell out in detail, are for the 2015-19 period. They will apply to his office, that of the Joint Chief’s chairman and also the Pentagon headquarters offices of the Army, Navy, Air Force and Marine Corps.

It is one element of a broader effort by the Pentagon to adjust to forced spending reductions that already have resulted in the furloughing of civilian workers. Hagel said he believed Pentagon headquarters staff must share in the sacrifices.

“That isn’t going to fix the problem,” he told about 100 Defense Department civilian employees in a question-and-answer session at Jacksonville Naval Air Station on the second day of a tour of military bases. “But, yes, everybody’s got to do their part.”

Hagel spokesman George Little later said the top brass cuts could save between $1.5 billion to $2 billion over the five years and will target personnel, including civilians and contractors. He said the cuts will happen even if Congress eases budget caps that have created sharp limits on defense spending.

Military spending was slashed by $37 billion this year, forcing job furloughs that began last week for an estimated 650,000 Defense Department civilian employees. The layoffs do not apply to military members, but they, too, are feeling the effects of a budget squeeze that is reducing some training.

The Pentagon faces the prospect of an additional $52 billion budget cut in 2014 unless Congress and the White House come up with a deficit-cutting plan. Hagel told Congress last week that such a large additional cut would have “severe and unacceptable” effects.

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