As U.S. Central Command and U.S. Special Operations Command officials finalize plans for trimming their headquarters budgets by 20 percent as ordered by the Secretary of Defense, Rep. C.W. “Bill” Young, R-Indian Rocks Beach, is asking that any cuts include defense contractors.
Back in July, Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel ordered military headquarters, including Centcom and Socom, to come up with a plan on how they could cut their budgets by 20 percent.
“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,” Hagel stated in July.
At MacDill, that could mean as many as 1,200 job losses over the next five years in a worse-case scenario.
But in a letter sent to Hagel last week, Young, chairman of the influential House Appropriations Committee Defense Subcommittee, and Rep. Peter Visclosky, D-Ind., the subcommittee’s ranking member, asked that headquarters also be allowed to include defense contractor positions as part of any calculus on how to cut spending.
“We recommend rather than imposing an arbitrary 20 percent cut on civilian positions and military (positions) in the management headquarters workforce, a review of continued relevancy of functions and costs be performed instead,” the congressmen told Hagel. “...We believe the total workforce should be considered, to include the size and the cost of the contractor workforce.”
Both MacDill-based commands as well as the Pentagon declined comment on the recommendations made in the letter.
Right now, Centcom has about 5,000 military and civilian jobs at MacDill and was planning to reduce that to about 3,500 by next fall even before Hagel’s call for 20 percent cuts. Socom has about 2,500 civilians and military positions at MacDill.
Socom has about 1,100 contractors working at its MacDill headquarters, according to spokesman Ken McGraw. Centcom did not comment on the number of contractors that work for the command at MacDill.
Spreading those cuts across all three workforces “makes sense,” according to Dave “Tanker” Snyder, a retired Air Force brigadier general who served as base commander between 2003 and 2005.
With U.S. troops engaged in wars in two countries, the military increased its reliance on contractors at headquarters to perform intelligence collection and analysis, as well as planning, programming and acquisitions, said Snyder. But the war in Iraq is over and the bulk of U.S. combat troops are expected to leave Afghanistan by the end of next year.
“It certainly seems reasonable,” said Snyder. “Rather than just cut 20 percent of military and civilian personnel, you should include contractors.”
Chase Stockon, chairman of the Military Council for the Greater Tampa Chamber of Commerce, said that no matter what happens, there will be cuts, so they might as well be spread out over all three workforces.
“I would rather not see straight cuts to military and civilians, but rather see an analysis done,” said Stockon.
The deadline for headquarters to submit its cost-cutting plans is Monday. Centcom and Socom officials declined to talk about those plans, saying they are “pre-decisional.”
The cuts to the headquarters are independent of sequestration, Hagel said.