- The Washington Times - Monday, January 26, 2015

Federal auditors are questioning the Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel’s plan to scale back on postwar spending by reducing the number of senior military personnel working for the Pentagon.

Mr. Hagel devised the plan in 2013, following the implementation of a stiff, across-the-board, congressional budget cut known as sequestration. That year, he ordered the Air Force, Army, Navy and U.S. Marines of the military to take a hard look at how to reduce headquarters expenses.

Now, federal auditors for the Government Accountability Office are warning that the cost-reduction plans put forth by the military do not add up. Auditors recently addressed the latest issues with that undertaking in a Jan. 21 report, but initially began taking a hard look at the military’s unrealistic cost savings plans in 2012, federal auditor John Pendleton said.

“When you see a requirements process that has as many gaps as this one did, that really concerns you,” Mr. Pendleton told The Washington Times.

The Pentagon hit back at the report’s findings in a Dec. 15 response letter to the accountability office, expressing concern that the GAO report lacked “appropriate perspective” when characterizing the complexity and scope of senior-level staff. The Defense Department is “unrivaled in the breath and scope of its widely varying missions,” which are broad and far-reaching, according to the letter.

“Even the largest of global multinational corporations doesn’t touch or directly impact the lives of so many, and in so many different ways,” the letter stated. “Simply put, the Department does everything from delivering bombs to babies, has a presence above every continent, operates on and under every ocean of the world, and executes capabilities in cyber and outer space. Accordingly, it is not surprising, and actually quite appropriate, that the Department has such a complex and multi-layered headquarters structure.”

Rich Roberts, director of total force planning and requirements for the Pentagon, signed off on the five-page response letter. In the letter, Mr. Roberts assured federal auditors that the Defense Department would investigate other methods for documenting and aligning headquarters staff.

That “foot-stomping” response, however, has not appeased federal auditors, Mr. Pendleton said.

“The passionate response was fine, but I’m looking for substance,” Mr. Pendleton said. “What are you planning do? The response was a little light on that.”

• Maggie Ybarra can be reached at mybarra@washingtontimes.com.

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