Whatever Floats Your Bloat, By George!

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Navy photo

The Pentagon, headquarters of the Department of Defense since 1943.

So there was conservative columnist George Will’s list of questions for defense-secretary nominee Chuck Hagel in the lead slot on the op-ed page of Thursday morning’s Washington Post:

Do you agree with Defense Secretary Leon Panetta’s judgment that cuts under sequestration would “hollow out the force”? Can you give examples of procurements or deployments that justify your description of the Defense Department as “bloated”?

Like clockwork, on Thursday afternoon the Government Accountability Office issued a report detailing Pentagon personnel bloat. (No, Will’s column didn’t trigger the report: the release of a GAO report has nearly as much lead time as a manned rocket launch [youngsters: ask your parents])

In a study with the eye-glazing title Human Capital: Critical Skills and Competency Assessments Should Help Guide DOD Civilian Workforce Decisions was this chart, which shows the number of civilian personnel working for the Pentagon rising steadily over most of the past decade.

gao personnel #


“DOD’s total civilian has reached approximately 800,000 FTEs [full-time equivalents, in which part-time workers are lumped together to generate FTEs], which constitutes approximately 17 percent growth since 2002, most of which has occurred since 2008,” the GAO says. “In fiscal year 2012 alone, DOD budgeted approximately $72 billion for its civilian personnel, an increase of approximately $12.6 billion, or 21 percent, since fiscal year 2002.”

Here’s how much these folks are costing us (although the key saying it’s in “thousands of dollars” can’t be right; elsewhere in the report it says the 2012 total is $72 billion, so the GAO appears to be off here…just a tad. A big tad.). Nonetheless, the incline is what’s important.

gao-personnel $


Anyway, there’s nothing new here. Nearly a quarter-century ago, Battleland looked into what it called “a bloated military” following then-Defense Secretary Frank Carlucci’s 1987 order to cut 3,000 military officers from headquarters staffs.

Two years later, in 1989, a Pentagon investigation showed:

…the military services eliminated 2,970 slots, but 2,244 people who held those positions were transferred to other jobs. The Army cut 1,120 positions, while adding 1,123 through transfers, for a net gain of three. The Navy dropped 650 jobs and shifted 654, for a gain of four. The Marines removed 39, while picking up 41 new posts, gaining two. Only the Air Force recorded a net job loss. It slashed 1,161 positions and transferred 426, for a net loss of 735.

The Pentagon inspector general also had recommended that 51 slots held by admirals and generals be eliminated. After two years, 51 remained filled.

But none dare call it bloat.


Gosh, the Pentagon is not managed properly and hasn't had a clear strategy. Who knew?

July 26, 2012
What GAO Found
Prior Department of Defense (DOD) civilian workforce downsizing efforts in the 1990s were not oriented toward shaping the makeup of the workforce, resulting in significant imbalances in terms of shape, skills, and retirement eligibility. Specifically, in a series of reviews GAO found that DOD’s efforts in the 1990s to reduce its federal civilian workforce to levels below that of 1987 were hampered by incomplete data and lack of a clear strategy for avoiding skill imbalances and other adverse effects of downsizing. //

How to fix problems including significant imbalances found in a series of GAO reviews? Put a hapless lifetime politician like Leon Panetta in charge of a six-hundred billion dollar screwed-up operation? I don't think so. The Pentagon shouldn't be run as a profit-center adjunct to the committee to re-elect the president.


So according to Republicans, its ok to cut workers from services that are providing valuable help to the lower and middle classes and are often stretched and resources tapped, but don't touch the Pentagon which refuses to cut jobs even when ordered to cut jobs?


In my America bloat sinks the boat.  Do they really need 72 billion in civilian personel?  And is a third of that secretaries who make coffee and answer the phone?


"Nonetheless, the incline is what’s important."

Mark, I respect your work. However, it is misleading to draw attention to the slope of a graph in which the Y-axis 1) does not begin at zero and/or 2) is discontinuous. The little "//" marks do show that the Y-axis skips from zero to 600K dollars or people, and it helps in distinguishing the yearly figures, but it makes the graph useless for measuring gradients. 

That said, WTF has been going on 2009-2011? Was this growth in the military part of the stimulus package? Wow.


@kbanginmotownYou're taking his comment out of context. The GAO goofed big-time on the chart figures, and after mentioning that,  MT said "Nonetheless, the incline is what’s important." He meant it was important compared to the goof. 

The GAO used accepted procedures with its graphs. And MT doesn't just refer to the chart, he supplies the raw data in dollars and percents.


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