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US to axe major military command

August 10, 2010 17:31 IST
Facing severe resource crunch, US Defence Department has announced axing one of the ten major military commands as part of far-reaching proposals to cut back on spiralling military spending and the over-reliance on contractors.

Defence Secretary Robert Gates said the US Joint Forces Command would close, the use of outside contractors would be cut and the number of generals and admirals reduced. The command, which is based in Norfolk, Virginia, has an annual budget of US $ 240 million and 2,800 military and civilian employees. It is one of the Defence Department's 10 "combatant commands." Unlike most of the others, it does not have a particular global region of responsibility, such as Central Command that is responsible for the Middle East.

"I am announcing an initial set of decisions designed to reduce duplication, overhead and excess in the defence enterprise and over time instill a culture of savings and restraint in this department," Gates told reporters at a Pentagon briefing. The cuts could mean a loss of up to 3,000 jobs, CNN reported. The current Defence Department budget totals more than US $ 530 billion a year, and defence officials believe they need increases of 2 to 3 per cent a year to sustain the force structure and meet modernisation needs. "We must be mindful of the difficult economic and fiscal situation facing our nation," Gates said.

"As a matter of principle and political reality, the Department of Defence cannot expect America's elected representatives to approve budget increases each year unless we are doing a good job, indeed, everything possible to make every dollar count," he said. The defence chief said the military had grown unwieldy and costly following the 9/11 attacks. Describing the US military "top-heavy", Gates, who was appointed by George W Bush in 2006 and retained by his successor Barack Obama, said he would recommend eliminating at least 50 positions for generals and admirals. "I'm not satisfied with the progress made to reduce our over-reliance on contractors," he said. Based on the data available after one year, I'm not satisfied with the progress made to reduce our over-reliance on contractors. Accordingly, to accelerate this process and achieve additional savings, I have directed that we reduce funding for service support contractors by 10 per cent a year for each of the next three years, he said.
Lalit K Jha in Washington
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