Pentagon plans to cut 20,000 jobs at NSA, 23 other agencies, offices Action part of bid to drop 150,000 to 175,000 workers from defense payroll

THE BALTIMORE SUN

WASHINGTON -- A sweeping plan to restructure the Defense Department calls for a total of 20,000 jobs to be cut from two dozen offices and agencies, including the Fort Meade-based National Security Agency, the largest employer in Maryland.

The Pentagon's plan, called the Quadrennial Defense Review and scheduled for release next week, would cut about 18,000 civilian and 2,000 military jobs at agencies that include NSA and the Defense Intelligence Agency, as well as field activities such as the POW/MIA office. The job reductions are to be completed by 2003, defense sources said.

Even more job cuts at the same agencies are expected as a result of a task force named Wednesday by Defense Secretary William S. Cohen. The task force will not only determine where the quadrennial-review job cuts will be made; it has also been directed to produce further staff cuts and savings in those agencies' administrative operations.

It is too early to say exactly how many job cuts each agency would absorb, defense officials said. Nor did the officials have an estimate of the total number of employees at the 24 agencies.

NSA, an intelligence agency that eavesdrops on foreign communications and makes and breaks codes, employs about 20,000 at Fort Meade. Together with the nation's other spy agencies, NSA has already been ordered by Congress to reduce its civilian staff 24 percent by 2001 and is in the process of doing so.

Paul Kaminski, the undersecretary of defense for acquisitions, said the panel appointed by Cohen would "take a longer-term look at what can be done to reduce infrastructure in defense agencies and in the [Office of the Secretary of Defense] staff."

The task force has seven members, with more expected to be named. It is made up of business and defense officials and will be headed by John Hamre, the Pentagon's comptroller.

The staff reductions in the agencies are among the cuts in active-duty military, civilian, reserve and National Guard personnel -- expected to total between 150,000 and 175,000 -- called for in the Pentagon's quadrennial review. The plan is also expected to call for cuts in fighter jet programs and two rounds of base closings.

The savings are intended to help pay for new weapons in the next decade. The Pentagon is asking for $42.6 billion for weapons purchases in this year's budget, a figure it hopes will rise steadily over the next several years, to $68.3 billion in 2002.

Besides the cutbacks at the agencies, Cohen has directed the task force to look for reductions in his own office and to streamline the way the Pentagon handles purchasing, logistics and property management.

"We have a multiplicity of agencies, and the question is: Can we operate more efficiently?" Cohen asked this week.

The secretary said the task force, which will report to him by

Nov. 30, would meet with business executives who have streamlined their corporations in recent years.

One source familiar with the task force's charter said its mission would be a highly challenging one, noting that similar efforts have been made before, with mixed success. "The bureaucracy is very resilient," he said.

Cohen noted that one of his predecessors had tried something similar. "I found, in 1947, Clark Clifford was proposing essentially some of the same things I am proposing -- how to get control over [the secretary's office] and to get better efficiencies and to try to streamline operations," he said.

Military experts note that about 70 percent of the defense budget -- $150 billion to $160 billion -- is spent on support activities, such as providing health care and housing, with the remaining 30 percent on combat missions.

"The Defense Department's support structure wastes money that could be used to support the war fighter or be redirected to other requirements," said Thomas G. McInerney, a retired Air Force lieutenant general and president of Business Executives for National Security, a group of business and professional leaders.

McInerney told defense officials last month that the Defense Finance and Accounting Service, for example, charged an average of $8.50 a month to process a single paycheck, as much as $7 more than does a comparable private service.

With about 2.5 million Pentagon paychecks processed each month, McInerney said, "even small reforms can produce huge savings."

Pub Date: 5/16/97

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