Pentagon plan suggests cuts in Hawai'i jobs
By William Cole
Advertiser Military Writer
A Pentagon proposal to streamline the military calls for a radical reorganization that would inactivate commands including Pacific Fleet, Marine Forces Pacific, U.S. Army Pacific and Air Forces Pacific, and reassign or cut 3,675 Pacific-based headquarters positions.
The briefing dated Feb. 21 and put out by the Undersecretary of Defense (Personnel & Readiness) office suggests restructuring geographic commands around the world to improve combat capability and meet a congressional mandate to reduce headquarters staffs by 15 percent.
Before Sept. 11, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld announced a major drive to reduce years of institutionalized duplication and waste at the bureaucratically-bloated Pentagon.
For a new idea to make it from a line officer to the secretary's desk, he noted, 17 levels of bureaucracy had to be negotiated.
The Feb. 21 report states that the undersecretary of defense developed the restructuring plan, and that Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Gen. Richard Myers was briefed on it.
But the report titled, "Major Headquarters Executive Steering Group, One Approach to Streamlining," also injects the caveat that the plan is "not necessarily the single best approach," and that it is a "good starting point for discussions."
Pacific Command officials would not comment on the plan. In addition, Paul Cardus, a spokesman for U.S. Sen. Daniel Akaka, D-Hawai'i, said he is not sure where the proposal stands, and as a result, Akaka is withholding comment.
"Obviously, it has credence and validity," Cardus said. "(But) it appears to be preliminary and an internal document because no official proposal or draft has been shared with the Senate Armed Services Committee or members of the Senate." Akaka chairs the Armed Services Readiness and Management Support subcommittee.
Cardus added that a loss of jobs in Hawai'i that may result from a restructuring is a concern for the state's congressional delegation.
The plan's goal was to find a way to reduce more than 6,000 headquarters positions. Restructuring the geographic commands, the briefing states, "could yield significant savings ... which can be reprogrammed to strengthen combat capability" with standing joint forces and corps, numbered fleets and numbered air forces.
Regional commands such as Pacific Command are responsible for geographic areas. Functional commands have oversight over such areas as space and special operations.
The undersecretary's report does not affect the staffs of the commanders in chief, or CINCs. Instead it targets subordinate commands.
Five major Navy commands with five numbered fleets would be restructured into a single command. The Pacific Fleet and U.S. Naval Forces Europe, Central and South, would be inactivated, while the Naval Fleet Command/Atlantic Fleet would be augmented with 1,225 new positions.
A total of 2,055 Management Headquarters Activities position cuts the most of any service branch are related to Pacific Fleet.
Similarly, the report restructures four major Army commands into two existing corps. The U.S. Army Pacific, U.S. Army Europe, Central, South and the 8th Army would be inactivated while U.S. Army Forces Command in Georgia would be augmented with 1,200 new positions. About 400 positions would be cut at U.S. Army Pacific.
A Defense Department spokesman said Friday that the report represents "just some ideas to get people brainstorming" and that no decisions have been made.
Marcus Corbin, a senior analyst with the Center for Defense Information in Washington D.C., said the proposal seems to be aimed at new joint task forces and regional commanders taking over the forces with an emphasis on continental U.S. force providers. However, he added, the plan, if adopted, might not necessarily mean a loss of jobs in Hawai'i.
"In practical terms, the continental command could have its people in Hawai'i," Corbin said. "So it wouldn't necessarily be a straight geographic shift."
He noted that the lack of definitiveness about the plan should be emphasized. "I think the main point of the emphasis on 'this is just one approach' is to tell all those agencies that might oppose it that they don't need to start digging the trenches yet because it's not set," he said.
While Corbin said the plan "sort of fits into the other schemes of the Rumsfeld administration," he added that the ideas "could get shot down if the services dig in their heels."
Reach William Cole at email@example.com or 525-5459.