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Wright-Patt braces for cuts to AFMC headquarters

Defense directive wants 20% cut to military headquarters which could impact Air Force Materiel Command.

The Air Force Materiel Command may cut spending at its Wright-Patterson headquarters 20 percent over five years, which could include military and civilian jobs, because of a Pentagon directive aimed at headquarters throughout the Department of Defense, according to AFMC and the Pentagon.

AFMC doesn’t have specifics on how it will be impacted, but it will be included in spending reductions as a major service command led by a four-star general, according to spokeswoman Susan Murphy.

“We have not received Air Force-specific guidance yet and are at the very earliest stages of this effort,” Murphy said in an email, adding it would be “speculative” to comment on the outcome.

A budget for AFMC headquarters staff wasn’t available, but 1,290 people, 890 civilians and 400 military personnel, are assigned to command headquarters at Wright-Patterson, according to Murphy. “We don’t know how far down those cuts will go,” she said in an interview Monday.

Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel directed a 20 percent reduction to management headquarters spending throughout the Department of Defense between 2015 to 2019, according to an internal Pentagon memo. A plan on how to reduce spending is due Sept. 23, Deputy Secretary of Defense Ashton B. Carter wrote in the July 31 memo.

While the 20 percent cut applies to budget dollars, organizations should “strive for a goal” of a 20 percent reduction in “authorized government civilians” and military personnel, Carter wrote.

“The cuts, which will take place regardless of the budget levels approved by Congress, are designed to streamline DoD’s management through efficiencies and elimination of lower priority activities,” Carter wrote.“… Senior managers should ensure that cuts are made aggressively and as soon as possible, both to eliminate uncertainty for our employees and contractors and to maximize savings.”

He encouraged cuts to start as soon as fiscal year 2014, which begins Oct. 1.

AFMC has about 14,000 people at Wright-Patterson among a worldwide workforce of more than 80,000. AFMC spends about $50 billion, or about 32 percent of the Air Force’s total budget on acquisition, research and development, test and evaluation, and maintenance and sustainment.

Automatic budget cuts known as sequestration triggered March 1 forced the Pentagon to cut $37 billion by Sept. 30. The Defense Department faces $52 billion in spending reductions beginning Oct. 1, part of $500 billion in reductions over a decade because of the Budget Control Act of 2011.

Jennifer Elzea, a Pentagon spokeswoman, indicated the cuts could be part of sequestration, but would happen even if the sequester was abolished.

Murphy said AFMC has complied with reductions this year and will next year. A reorganization prior to the sequester pared the number of AFMC centers to five from a dozen, eliminated 1,000 management jobs and saved more than $100 million, according to the Air Force. “We’ve done quite a bit to cut our budget and our overhead already,” she said.

Carter’s memo said the reductions at major command staffs, service secretary and chief, and joint staff headquarters, combatant commands and intelligence staffs would include “government civilian personnel who work at headquarters and associated costs including contract services, facilities, information technology, and others that support headquarters functions.”

Subordinate headquarters should not grow because of reductions at higher headquarters, the memo said.

“In general, when you talk about cuts to headquarters, you’re talking about cuts of management which means people,” said Michael Gessel, Dayton Development Coalition vice president of federal programs in Washington, D.C. “There’s only so much savings you can get not mowing the lawn or not fixing a leaky roof and those cuts have already been taken.”

However, nothing is guaranteed with persistent federal budget uncertainty, he said.

“Nothing is a done deal over a five-year period because Congress and the administration are always tinkering,”he said. But, “it is something (Hagel) seems to be committed to at the moment.”

Todd Harrison, a senior fellow at the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments in Washington, D.C., said in an email “nothing is certain at this point” because Hagel outlined a set of options and not decisions. That won’t become clearer until the military services submit fiscal year 2015 budget requests and the Pentagon and Congress endorse the cuts.

Even so, it’s likely 20 percent cuts will be directed at headquarters staff, the defense analyst indicated.

“Part of this would be because of reduced force structure overall requiring less headquarters management,” he wrote in an email. “But I think there is a perception, if not reality, that headquarter staffs have grown bloated and inefficient over the past decade, and as a result these staffs are likely to be targeted for greater reductions than the rest of the force.”

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