Top Brass in Huff Over Pentagon Cutbacks

Move to end 'brass creep' ruffles feathers
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted Aug 13, 2010 5:23 AM CDT
Defense Secretary Robert Gates speaks with US Army majors during an informal roundtable with the officers at the Command and General Staff College at Ft. Leavenworth.   (AP Photo/U.S. Department of Defense, Cherie Cullen)

(Newser) – Four-star military commanders have joined the ranks of Americans worried about keeping their jobs. Defense Secretary Robert Gates made it clear when he announced Pentagon cutbacks this week that he plans to reduce "brass creep" in the military, and the decision has ruffled many feathers in the top ranks, the Washington Post reports. Some commanders fear being forced to retire early, while up-and-comers fear missing out on promotions.

Gates says the military has become top-heavy: There are currently 40 four-star generals and admirals—one more than during the Vietnam War—despite the fact that the number of active-duty troops has shrunk by half since 1971. The number of active-duty generals and admirals of all rank is up 13% from 1996. Cutting back on brass won't make that much difference to the Pentagon's $535 billion budget (trimming a single general would save about $200,000), but analysts say the move is necessary for Gates—who has complained that the number of commanders is bogging down decision-making—to convince Congress he's serious about saving money.

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