Cut Corps of Generals 7%, Cheney Orders : Defense: The decision is greeted with applause on Capitol Hill. Lawmakers call for even more reductions in the military’s top brass.
Extending the pain of planned defense cutbacks to the military’s most senior ranks, Defense Secretary Dick Cheney moved Thursday to trim the nation’s corps of generals and admirals by 7% over the next four years.
Cheney, noting that military personnel cuts must start “at the top,” ordered the services to cut 78 of 1,073 general and flag-rank officer positions by 1995.
But the reduction will spare the military’s top brass from the deep cuts facing the ranks below them. Cheney has slated overall reductions of at least 14% in military manpower and the cuts could be as much as 25% among enlisted and junior officers.
While Congress in recent years has directed cuts in the senior officer corps, Pentagon experts said that Thursday’s announcement appeared to mark the first time in decades that a defense secretary has ordered such reductions.
On Capitol Hill, where lawmakers have called for large reductions in military manpower, Cheney’s decision was greeted with applause and calls for even deeper cuts.
“I’m pleased to see it,” said Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), ranking Republican on the Senate Armed Services subcommittee on manpower and personnel. “It just makes sense that as you reduce force size and weapons, there should be less requirement for flag and general officers. In fact, there should be less requirement for generals than there are for sergeants.
“But there will be more,” McCain added. “There will be larger reductions (in senior officers) made by Cheney or mandated by Congress. These cuts should be comparable with, if not deeper than, overall cuts in the forces.”
In a related move, Cheney also ordered reductions of 15% in the Joint Staff, the group of officers that advise and perform staff work for the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
The combined reductions in the senior ranks are likely to most heavily affect the Washington area, where generals, admirals and joint staff officers are concentrated.
Although some lawmakers have charged that the officer corps has become bloated during years of peace, Pentagon spokesman Pete Williams defended the decision to trim the top brass to 995. He said that the current head count of 1,073 generals and admirals already is far below the 1,435 recommended by a private commission last year.
“Every one of these is going to be a difficult, agonizing decision. We’re not talking about a big universe” of officers, Williams said.
Williams said that the Pentagon would try to reduce the numbers by not replacing admirals and generals as they retire. But additional steps might be necessary, he said.
“I don’t think retirement and attrition are going to do it,” Williams said.
Under the proposal, which does not require congressional approval, the Army will lose 33 of its 407 generals, the Air Force 27 of 338, and the Marine Corps three of 70. The Navy will lose 15 of 258 admirals by 1995.
The breakdown reflects the changing role of the military services and their budgetary prospects in the coming cutbacks.
The number of generals in the Army and the Air Force, whose major commitments in Western Europe will be reduced in response to the fall of former East Bloc Communist governments, will be cut by 8% each.
The Navy, whose traditional role makes it an important force in Third World conflicts, will lose only 6% of its flag-rank officers.
A total of 20 positions will be eliminated by the end of 1991, an additional 20 in each of the next two years, and 18 in 1994, Williams said.