The Defense Department is slowly reducing its senior executive service staff down to 1,260 members over the next four years.
A December 2017 report from Robert Wilkie, the Defense undersecretary for personnel and readiness, outlines just how DoD and the military branches will reduce 158 employees from the senior executive service (SES) staff by 2022.
The reductions were required by Congress in the 2017 defense authorization act and DoD used the last year to come up with an execution plan on how to best shave down its ranks.
DoD will slowly build up the number of employees it will lay off, culminating in nearly 49 SES members being taken off the Pentagon’s payroll in 2022.
The department already began the mandatory cuts in 2017, when it released 10 DoD SES employees.
In 2018, the military as a whole will lay off 11 SES members and in 2019 it will cut another eight. After 2019, the numbers start to pick up. In 2020, DoD will release 20 SES members, 32 more will be cut in 2021 and finally 49 in 2022.
The SES cuts hit every branch of the military, as well as the combatant commands, DoD as a whole and the SES reserve pool.
The Air Force will lose 16 SES members; the Army, 29; the Navy, 32; DoD, 48; the combatant commands, five; and the reserve pool will lose 28, effectively cutting it in half.
While Wilkie’s office will “provide oversight of the reduction, each of the organizations with SES allocations will individually plan for and execute implementation of the assigned cuts,” the report stated.
Congress has been chipping away at what it sees as DoD’s bloated headquarters staff for the past couple of years.
The 2017 defense authorization bill also cut more than just SES members from the DoD payroll.
The law limits the number of civilians assigned to the Office of the Secretary of Defense to 3,767. It limits the number of personnel on the Joint Staff to 1,930 and mandates that no more than 1,500 may be active duty military.
The Senate Armed Services Committee held a series of hearings on DoD waste in 2015 and at the beginning of 2016.
“The growth in defense infrastructure has been continuous. The tendency has been to add, rather than subtract. As we have added more staff, more layers and more infrastructure, we have slowed the decision process, expanded the number of players and made the overall system more risk adverse, at a time when we need to take more risk and make quicker decisions,” Arnold Punaro, a member of the Defense Business Board, told Congress in 2015.
The Defense Department is already on track to make a self-imposed 25 percent cut in headquarters staff by 2020, but Congress wants more staff reductions.
Former Defense Secretary Ash Carter was not excited about the SES cuts or the headquarters trim.
In July 2016 letter to Congress, Carter “strongly” objected to the SES provision, adding the 25 percent cut was arbitrary.
“The Department supports the elimination of unnecessary and excessive executive positions, and has reduced the size of our SES workforce by 105 since 2010. However, any further reductions to SES positions should be made in a deliberate manner following a review and analysis of the impact of such reductions on each component or agency,” the letter stated.