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Gates rearranges Defense budget, starting in his own office

By Larry Shaughnessy, CNN Pentagon Producer
Defense Secretary Robert Gates noted an increase of nearly 1,000 employees in his own office in the past decade.
Defense Secretary Robert Gates noted an increase of nearly 1,000 employees in his own office in the past decade.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • The budget for the Office of Secretary of Defense has grown rapidly since 9/11
  • The office budget has more than doubled, and employees have increased by about 500
  • Gates has ordered a hiring freeze for the office
  • Gates is looking to save $18 million by eliminating some outside boards and commissions

Washington (CNN) -- When Defense Secretary Robert Gates looked for billions of dollars in budget savings, he began right in his own office.

And in a town where it has been said that laws are passed that affect everyone but the people who pass them, that in itself could be considered remarkable.

In speaking to reporters Monday, Gates bemoaned how much the Defense Department and its budget have grown in recent years.

"This manifested itself over the past decade in vast increases in spending and staff, by nearly a thousand employees in the case of the Office of Secretary of Defense alone, and in the proliferation of new organizations and senior executives to lead them," Gates said.

The Defense Department provided CNN with details on how much the secretary's office has grown since before the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. The office budget has more than doubled from $2.2 billion in 2001 to $5.2 billion this year. In 2001, the office employed 1,519 civilians and 469 uniformed service members. The office currently has 2,260 civilians and 384 military employees.

Now, Gates has ordered a hiring freeze on positions in the Office of Secretary of Defense at current levels for the next three years. Except in special cases, they will not be replaced by outside contractors.

"We will conduct a clean-sheet review to determine what our people should be doing, where, and at what level of rank, in keeping with the department's most critical priorities," Gates said. As usual, he set a firm deadline for the changes. "I expect the results of this effort by November 15th of this year."

Just how big is the Office of Secretary of Defense?

Video: Gates: Military cuts planned
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According to the Defense Department website, there is Gates, his deputy William Lynn, five undersecretaries of defense, eight assistant secretaries of defense and 13 deputy under-secretaries of defense. Each one of those people has an entire office staff to support them.

And beyond those positions, the Office of Secretary of Defense has 28 agencies and field activities such as the Missile Defense Agency or the TRICARE Management Activity, each with directors and staff.

If all those officials and agencies sound like enough to do the work of the Office of Secretary of Defense, it's not.

Gates spelled out how many external groups answer to him, as well.

"The department has set up numerous outside boards and commissions -- 65 in the case of OSD alone -- to oversee our activities and provide independent advice. Some of these entities provide real value; others less so. Even if their members are unpaid, these bodies still require substantial support -- $75 million for OSD alone -- in the form of staff and indirect costs," he said Monday.

Gates is looking to save $18 million from those groups.

"I'm ordering a review of all outside boards and commissions," he said, "for the purpose of eliminating those that are no longer needed, focusing the efforts of those that continue to be relevant, and cutting the overall funding available for studies tasked by the remaining boards and commissions by 25 percent in (fiscal year 2011)."