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Gates to Chop JFCOM; Reduce Contractors By 10 Percent

Defense Secretary Robert Gates is expected to announce in a Pentagon press conference today the elimination of U.S. Joint Forces Command, based at Norfolk, Va., as part of a broad restructuring aimed at cutting costs. He will also announce a 10 percent reduction in the use of contractors next year, according to news reports. DoD has set a goal to reduce its costs by $100 billion over the next five years, primarily through reductions in overhead.

– Greg Grant

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{ 27 comments… read them below or add one }

Captain Chaos August 9, 2010 at 1:11 pm

Seems to me that reducing contractors by 10pc could make it that much more difficult for Mr. Gate's to cut $100b over five years. One might be able to argue that inceasing contracting by 10pc instead could help his cause. Time will tell.

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Matt August 9, 2010 at 1:20 pm

Wow cutting contractors… The easist way to save money! why didnt you start firing though murderous mercs before chopping programs and acual soldiers pay? All they are is greedy a-holes who over charge for services that can be done by real soldiers…

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JEFF August 9, 2010 at 1:26 pm

Because as some European nations have learned it always looks better for someone else to be in harms way.

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Andres August 9, 2010 at 2:00 pm

haha like that

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Cole August 9, 2010 at 9:20 pm

Matt, although I'm personally not a fan of overseas security contractors suggest you inform yourself by reading GAO-19-266R," Warfighter Support: A Cost Comparison of Using State Department Employees Versus Contractors for Security Services in Iraq," dated March 4 , 2010. You can find it using Google.

In 3 out of 4 instances the contractor was cheaper and in the fourth as well when recruiting and training expenses were included for government employees.

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Cole August 9, 2010 at 9:22 pm

Correction, GAO-10-266R. Bad eyes

Rhit August 9, 2010 at 1:30 pm

While contractors can be less expensive, they're also less accountable and less efficient.

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AnonymousCoward August 9, 2010 at 1:36 pm

I don't know, I've seen a huge number of inefficient and more importantly unfireable DoD employees. And when you essentially cannot be fired, are you really accountable?

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Jacob August 9, 2010 at 1:50 pm

I've heard that PMC's can be more expensive at times….

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Wombat August 9, 2010 at 10:58 pm

I recall seeing that in the beginning of the war in Iraq there was something like a 30% attrition rate of contractors in country that didn't like it, quit and went home (which as an employee not a serviceman they are free to do). Compare that with the military's ~0% of troops who decide they want to go home and leave, and you see the lack of efficiency, the re-re-retraining of personnel for the same job, and crazy salaries to keep them in country. But then again if you don't have the recruitment numbers you need to have a large combat force as well as the huge support infrastructure needed to keep them fighting, hiring civilians becomes an easy out.

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Albatross August 9, 2010 at 1:53 pm

Clinton did the same thing. And the DoD civil servants replacing contractor tech reps proved to be very unwise. Many of the new DoD "experts" were desk jockeys with zero experience, utterly unqualified and caused more harm than good. Inevitably, they had to recall the pros. It did not work then and it will fail agian.

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Clement August 9, 2010 at 2:08 pm

A few thoughts: PMC's are more expensive, it's always more expensive to hire someone who fights for money rather than country, not to mention PMCs often make their own foreign policy and have questionable loyalties, usually money speaks the loudest for those guys. And yes accountability for their actions is a real issue as well.

Just wondering what are the ramifications of JFCOM being slashed?

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chaos0xomega August 9, 2010 at 2:43 pm

Cutting contractors is a good move. They are NEVER cheaper.

But JFCOM? I feel as though we need that now more than ever, and standing it down is a step in the wrong direction…

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Cole August 9, 2010 at 9:28 pm

Wrong. See my earlier GAO study reference GAO-10-266R…and that is just for security contractors. Now add something that requires extensive technical training.

Now read the recent "Wall Street Journal" article: "Why I'm not hiring" using Google News. Compare the true cost the civilian businessman is paying for an employee to that of the military or civil service if you include all the true costs.

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Cole August 9, 2010 at 9:30 pm

BTW the "wrong" comment was solely concerning contractors never being cheaper.

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Carmen Trautmann August 9, 2010 at 3:07 pm

To say that contractors are there cause of the money only, is a bold accusation. Maybe you should ask around, why the majority of those men are there.

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blight August 9, 2010 at 3:44 pm

Private security companies are inevitably more expensive (Blackwater, I'm looking at you…)

However, if KBR is using bottom-dollar migrant labor to do things, contractors are cheaper than paying an American respectable wages along with health insurance. Whereas with foreign labor from the third world, they are underpaid, at higher risk and probably more expendable, which keeps costs down and maximizes profit. As long as some politico is bribed, KBR can take home all the bacon it wants. However if government procurement officers chose to be aggressive hagglers it wouldn't be so bad..?

I suspect that when we went from a 15 division army to a 10 division army we kept most of the administrative bloat at the top. More bases may need to be closed or troops relocated from overseas posts closer to home.

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ohwilleke August 9, 2010 at 4:32 pm

The trouble with cutting bloat at the top in the Army is that the basic idea of the Army, historically, has been to have bare bones numbers of rank and file soldiers in relatively peaceful times, and then to expand dramatically in times of major wars.

What looks like administrative bloat in periods when the Army is small, looks like a ready to go infrastructure for a larger force when it has to ramp up for a major war. It is harder to add expertise at the top than it is to add manpower at the bottom in a crunch.

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Blight August 10, 2010 at 10:55 pm

Don’t know if that’s totally true…it’s not like we have “empty divisions” with commanding officers and staff just waiting for enlisted bodies to fill them. There are lots of “commands” that don’t really oversee a lot of troops, but I wonder if after so much complacency if one could legitimately say those commands are ready to suddenly handle command responsibilities.

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Jeremy August 9, 2010 at 4:09 pm

In Iraq I worked with vastly overpaid contractors who collected biweekly paychecks larger than the monthly pay of the Commanding General of my division. While they made far more money, most of them sat around watching youtube and cruising facebook on NIPR. Not only that, most of the qualified soldiers leave the force after their first enlistment to join the ranks of the overpaid contractors. We should have a larger military force with less contractors. You would have better retention and a more compentent force.

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old vet August 9, 2010 at 4:25 pm

Why are there contractors? Because we agreed with the Russians to decrease our military. In order to maintain end strength in the field, all those jobs in garrison that the troops used to do went to contractors. But wait, dumping contractors are the least of it. Imagine what will happen when the actives find out that their 20 year retirement will have to go, along with the families health benefits. Those are hidden in Gate's little report, a cat he let out of the bag at his press conference today.

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ohwilleke August 9, 2010 at 4:28 pm

Why not simply buy some of the technologically sophisticated, but price gouging contractors and bring them in house? Government owned enterprises are hardly unprecedented, and the benefits of private enterprise are vastly reduced in the parts of the defense contracting world where there is a single monopoly seller, and a single U.S. DOD buyer.

Markets work wonderfully well when there are many buyers and many sellers setting market prices. But, lots of the defense contracting world isn't operating in a market anyway.

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guest August 9, 2010 at 4:37 pm

The DoD has long said a huge part of their bill is personell costs - both active duty and retired. For serving 20 years - you get a pay check and healthcare for life. I don't know of any contractors who get that good of a deal. If savings are needed, this is a reasonable place to consider. Make the retirement benefits more comparable to industry….get yourself a 401k and put your retirement in the hands of the economy rather than further adding to the deficit.

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@E_L_P August 9, 2010 at 6:04 pm

As for savings re: personnel, it is time to get all the excess flag-ranks off of the dole.

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Anthony August 11, 2010 at 5:20 pm

As a contractor, I would have to say it "depends" on the type of contractor and where the contractor works. During the Bush years, the financial and war crimes of Blackwater gave all contractors a black eye. They literally were doing the job of traditional soldiers (Mercenaries) without the rules of engagement and accountability at a cost 3-4 times of having a soldier deployed. Those jobs should be done by soldiers! I work in the technology area and I can tell you that the average young military member working in IT does not have the training or experience to compete in the higher end technology job which are so important to the success of the military. That's a case of where it makes sense to hire contractors. Finally, too many military and civilians do not understand the lifecycle costs of service members. I'm not saying they don't deserve the benefits, but there is a cost of having a pension after 20 years (for the rest of your life), 50K plus college fund, free tuition, 30 days paid vacation, free medical, dental and R&R off when time allows. If we are going to compare financials, let's compare the true costs over the lifecycle and not just what the government pays in a single budget year for labor.

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Matt August 12, 2010 at 8:31 pm

Ok even if they are cheaper there is still the whole un controlable thing, like the blackwater/iraqi civilians thing. You all know the one i mean. Also isnt using mercs in combate against the geneva convention?

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Matt August 12, 2010 at 8:41 pm

ok yeah i take back the money thing cause contractors dont get gov health care etc for life like soldiers; but i do leave the whole illegal part on the table
Also if it werent for "obamacare" and the bailouts mabye obama wouldnt need to cut programs, troops, and contractors… cause the way i see it obama cares more about bailing out the big corporations than the troops…

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