Policy Bill Would Streamline Senior Leadership, Contractor Workforce

The fiscal 2017 defense authorization bill approved Thursday by the Senate Armed Services Committee would impose a series of caps on senior military officers and civilians, and contractors performing staff functions in headquarters.

The reforms are one component of a broad array of changes the annual defense policy bill would make throughout the DOD organization — the office of the secretary of Defense and the defense agencies, the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the Joint Staff, the combatant commands and the military services — and follow 13 hearings the panel conducted last fall with defense experts.

“This is a reform bill. The NDAA contains the most sweeping reforms of the organization of the Department of Defense in a generation,” said Committee Chairman John McCain (R-Ariz.).

The changes are a response to the number of strategic challenges facing the nation, most of which cut across regional geographies and span different military functions and domains, according to a committee summary of the legislation.

“We now face a series of multi-regional, cross-functional, multi-domain, and enduring strategic competitions that pose a significant challenge to the organization of DOD and the military, which is largely aligned around functional issues (policy, intelligence, acquisition, etc.) and regional geography (CENTCOM, AFRICOM, etc.),” according to the summary.

The bill would disestablish the undersecretary of Defense for acquisition, technology and logistics and divides its existing duties among a new undersecretary of Defense for research and engineering and the renamed undersecretary of management and support, a position mandated by the FY 2015 defense authorization bill that takes effect next February. The new undersecretary for management and support post would be a line office focused on running defense agencies that perform critical business operations for DOD.

The number of four-star billets would be trimmed from 41 to 27, and 25 percent of one-, two- and three-star jobs would eliminated. The number of general officers has “become increasingly out of balance with the size of the force it leads,” the summary states.

To match the reduction in general and flag officers, the legislation calls for a 25 percent cut in the number of civilian Senior Executive Service positions within the department. Similarly, the bill would cap the amount of money that DOD and the departments could spend on contractors performing staff functions in headquarters. The legislation would establish an FY 2016 baseline on spending for contractors and require a 25 percent reduction in such spending by January 2019.


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