MacDill Air Force Base could see the loss of as many as 1,200 military and civilian jobs beginning in October 2014 under a plan presented Wednesday afternoon by Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel. The cuts would come over a five-year period from U.S. Central Command and U.S. Special Operations Command, both headquartered at the base, as part of Hagel's Strategic Choice and Management Review plan. The plan lays out Hagel's vision for how the Department of Defense can cut as much as a trillion dollars from its budget over the next decade. Hagel has asked commanders to start planning for the cuts now, even though they would not start for more than a year. Officials from Centcom and Socom said it is too early to comment on the specifics of Hagel's plan or what it would mean to the commands.
In his plan, Hagel presented three potential budget scenarios for cuts, depending on what happens with the future of automatic budget cuts known as sequestration. But no matter what happens with those, he said that "it is possible and prudent to begin implementing a new package of efficiency reforms right now - ones that should be pursed regardless of financial circumstances." That package calls for reducing major headquarters budgets by 20 percent, including those of Centcom and Socom. Centcom's headquarters budget is $744 million. Socom's was not immediately available. "Although the 20 percent cut applies to budget dollars, organizations will strive for a goal of 20 percent reductions in government civilians and military personnel (positions) on headquarters staffs." Right now, Centcom has about 5,000 military and civilian jobs at MacDill and Socom has about 2,500. Centcom, which oversees U.S. military operations in most of the Middle East and Southwest Asia, has already planned to trim about 1,500 jobs by 2014, when the bulk of U.S. forces withdraw from Afghanistan. The cuts were planned largely through attrition. Hagel could ask Centcom to cut an additional 20 percent of its headquarters staff beginning next October if the automatic budget cuts continue. Aside from calling for overall budget reductions, Hagel's plan would reduce intelligence analysis and operations centers at each of the nine combatant commands, which include Centcom and Socom. Those cuts "will foster closer integration and reduce duplication across the defense enterprise," according to Hagel. Although Centcom and Socom already share intelligence gathering at the Joint Intelligence Operations Center at MacDill, each command has its own intelligence operations as well. Hagel began his review four months ago to find ways for the Pentagon to deal with the very real possibility that automatic budget cuts continue into the next fiscal year. The continuation of the cuts would be triggered by law if the White House and Congress could not agree on how to reduce the federal deficit. If no agreement is reached, the Pentagon would see a $52 billion cut in the next fiscal year, which begins in October. That would be in addition to about $50 billion in cuts ordered by the Budget Control Act of 2011. [email protected] (813) 259-7629 Twitter: @haltman