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Hagel: 'Everything on the Table' for Further Defense Cuts

Hagel: 'Everything on the Table' for Further Defense Cuts


On Wednesday, Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel said the Pentagon needed to “challenge all past assumptions” and “put everything on the table” when it came even more defense cuts, even though he conceded such “dramatic changes” could prove unwise. 

“It could turn out that making dramatic changes in each of these areas could prove unwise, untenable or politically impossible,” Hagel said. “Yet we have no choice but to take a very close look and see how we can do all of this better.”

Hagel spoke at the National Defense University at Fort McNair and indicated he intends to slash the Defense budget even more, especially when it comes to “personnel costs.” 

“It is already clear to me that any serious effort to reform and reshape our defense enterprise must confront the principal drivers of growth in the Department’s base budget — namely acquisitions, personnel costs and overhead,” Hagel said. “The Department must understand the challenges and uncertainties, plan for the risks and, yes, recognize the opportunities inherent in budget constraints and more efficient and effective restructuring.”

The Hill noted that Hagel also discussed “streamlining the military’s command structures, paring back the ‘world’s largest back-office’ and examining the number of active-duty service members.”

While emphasizing the military “is not, and should never be, run like a corporation,” Hagel said the Pentagon had a “good deal to learn from what the private sector has achieved over the past 20 to 30 years.”

Hagel did not lay out specifics, but as The Hill noted, his first chance to do so will come next week when the Pentagon submits it 2014 budget. According to Pentagon officials, that budget proposal “won’t include the $50 billion reduction in 2014 that would be required if sequester is not changed.” Because of the sequester, $41 billion will be cut from the 2013 budget. 

“By contrast, the cuts required by sequester afford neither time nor flexibility,” Hagel said. “These quick and dramatic cuts would almost certainly require reductions in what have long been considered core military capabilities and changes in the traditional roles and missions among the uniformed services.”

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