Donley Steps Up To Drawdown DoD HQ Staff

Donley Steps Up To Drawdown DoD HQ Staff

In 2008, then-Defense Secretary Robert Gates turned to Michael Donley to take over as Air Force secretary after Gates took the unprecedented step of firing the Air Force’s secretary and chief of staff following the discoveries of two accidents involving nuclear weapons.

Five years later, and shortly after Donley ended his term as Air Force secretary, another defense secretary is turning to him to hopefully clean up a mess. This time Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel wants Donley to reduce the Office of the Secretary of Defense (OSD) headquarters staff by 20 percent over the next five years.

Donley will report to Deputy Defense Secretary Ashton Carter and offer recommendations to follow through on Hagel’s order to cut the staff by 20 percent.


Questions do exist regarding the selection of Donley. Hagel said he wanted a leader “from outside DoD who is deeply knowledgeable about the defense enterprise and eminently qualified to direct implementation of the OSD reductions.”

Donley’s knowledge of the system is unquestioned, but does Donley have the separation from the Pentagon to be able to objectively cut positions within the Defense Department staff? He’s worked within the Pentagon for the past five years and developed those relationships. Will he be able to separate himself from those relationships after leaving his post at the Pentagon only a few months ago.

The Pentagon has continued to grow, especially the headquarter’s staffs. A Defense News report highlighted the 15 percent growth from 2010 to 2012.

The budget cuts have forced the Defense Department to find places to cut the fat. Considering the forthcoming drops in force strength, continuing to build up the corresponding headquarters staffs didn’t make sense. It will be Donley and his team’s responsibility to make the recommendations to make those cuts.

It’s a dirty job similar to the one he had when trying to clean up the nuclear mess in the Air Force that he faced when taking over as its secretary in 2008.

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Might be a good guy, but he was part of the problem. Not part of the solution. This is called going through the motions. Plus, if you want to get rid of the fat in OSD, start now — FY14. It’s called going through bankruptcy. Spreading this out over 5 years is basically making slow cuts and hoping they go away. For example, if you cut 4% a year to cut to a 20% accumulated total, and the US Treasury magically fills up with cash at the end of year 2, you have preserved 12% that you should have cut in year 1.

What’s needed is a budget cutter who knows the program requirements and budget, and has no allegiances.

I think Mr. Donely is a fine public servant with the best of intentions. However, as “Taxpayer” notes above, any plan that targets cuts over 5 years is unlikely to work. At best its creative fiction as there is always an excuse to defer hard choices to the “out years” of the 5 year plan. The service chiefs will “wait out” any SECDEF or service secretary who comes up with a plan they don’t like.

The only way this is realistically going to happen is do the cuts, or at least half, in FY 14. Sequestration isn’t going away and paring these staffs will be a good start to that $52 billion bill that DOD is going to have to pay next fiscal year. If they don’t act, any plan will end up on the trash heap.

The services desire to maintain the status quo and change is not something that is desired. or will be easy to accept. I do not envy the job of the former secretary. The best chance is to avoid the operational construct of the services and to focus on the instutional functions.

Cutting just the staff of the OSD, by a mere 20%, when staff across the DOD has increased by 15% in the last two years alone? Are they kidding? The DOD’s civilian and contractor work force, and particularly its HQ staff, should be cut by numbers greater than 50%!

Several observations:

A wise admiral working on the OSD staff once observed that the OSD staff should be kept small thereby forcing it to focus on the hard problems and constraining the natural tendency to “oversee” activities at all levels.

Look at the OSD staff elements that have evolved and expanded since 9–11 and assess whether they still add value. The USD(I) staff would be an example.

Interoperability among services, agencies and allies is essential for military success. That said, the volume of guidance and direction emanating from OSD and the Joint Staff is overwhelming, reflecting the theoretical constructs of the FFRDCs and fed by a bloated contractor support base. Look at CJCSI 6212.01F and its 34 pages of guidance/direction and 36 supporting references. Identify the OSD staff, defense agency, joint staff service, and contractor personnel employed to oversee the implementation of this guidance/direction. Lastly, look at the return on investment in terms of interoperability. How much of this expensive mountain of contractor paperwork and government staff review results in interoperability. This area is ripe for simplification and savings.

An easy start would be replacing people with systems. For example, you don’t need as many administrators if you have an electronic way to route paperwork.

You are right on track. We have added so many FFRDC billets and contracted positions for every problem that we can not solve anything. Those supposebly short term (really expensive positions-about $325K per position) are adding major expenses to every operation. We have contractors for absolutely everything. The contracting firms are still traveling, going to training and providing bonuses for their staffs (cost come from the government budget too even when it is contracted out). Then add in the base support personnel/contracting staff at every location, the QAE/COR and the program oversight (usally governemetn people) and we get twice as many people as we had in had in the past but, we only get half as much done. We got to get out of the operational mode that we bring in contractors to solve every issue. We should cut/reduce FFRDC billets in half and only allow those high level techncial advisors to stay on any program for 1 year (maybe 2 years max). The current contracts seem like indefinite appointments that are just gravy trains for all of these contracting firms especially the real expensive ones that fall into the FFRDC area.

A great choice to lead the way in balancing the pentagon organization. There are more peorple working in headquarters staffs and admin functions then there are actually doing work. I wish him the best of luck!

Listen folks that is a load of crap!!! Mr. Gates (once Head of the CIA ) got into a public dispute with The Airforce Sec. and the Chief of staff for the Airforce over the F-22 fighter program . The two Airforce officials were retiring a few different airframes ( or at least trimming them down) in order to pay for more F-22s and at a press conference they were quoted as saying that they were going to get more F-22s despite what the Sec. of Defense ( Mr. Gates ) said . Well that upset my Gates and despite what the two top officials in their branch of service said was best for the Airforce and this country Mr. Gates set forth to destroy these two great Americans careers. ‚and would you know a short while after that public dispute this nuke scandal came along and gates used it to get rid of these two Airforce personnel.

part 2– Then he told the American people that we did not need any more F-22s despite every independent study that was commissioned agreed with the two out going Airforce officials. Mr.Gates said that the Russians and the Chinese would not have stealth prototypes until 2020 and that this great F-35 would do everything the f-22 can do and do it better. He was proved wrong on almost every decision .

part 3– If he would have listened to the top Airforce officials ( who by the way know a lot more about air power and the state of our Airforce much better than anyone else ) This country would be in much better shape in regards to the Airforce. I have read article after article about about this topic , and so I encourage anyone who disagrees to do a little homework and see for your selves He also denied the F-22 from deploying to Iraq , now granted it ( F-22) had a few bugs it’s performance is too much for pilots ( humans ) and had to figure out how to make the pilot better able to cope with these new flight capabilities. but it was at the point where they were getting cheaper and better as they were coming off assembly line. we should have scrapped the F-35 and used the new technology developed for the F-35 on the F-22. Mr.Gates is a disgrace to his country! If he had gotten his way we would have traded fighter jets for insurgent fighting turboprops!! PATHETIC!!!!

Their should be be human redundancy in a military organization, and a staff in place for emergencies. Sure there’s “fat.” But what happens when your electronic substitutes go down or are compromised by hacking? Bad timing in today’s hair-trigger environment.

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