Pentagon Agencies Under Scrutiny for Cost Cuts, Carter Says

The Defense Department is looking for ways to cut the size and budgets for agencies and staff that provide support to the active-duty military, Deputy Defense Secretary Ashton Carter said.

The Pentagon is “driving down the tail to strengthen the tooth,” Carter said today at the National Press Club in Washington.

The support functions include members of the Office of the Secretary of Defense, personnel assisting the Joint Chiefs of Staff, people working with combatant commanders and employees of the defense agencies, Carter said. The group represents “a fifth of the department’s budget and merits at least as much scrutiny as the military services,” he said.

The Pentagon is seeking $526.6 billion in its 2014 budget, a request that assumes President Barack Obama and Congress will find a way to call off the automatic budget cuts called sequestration.

Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel has asked Carter and General Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, to conduct a review of strategic choices in light of a $1 trillion reduction in the Pentagon’s planned spending over the next decade. The review is due to be completed by May 31.

The Pentagon also faces the possibility of requiring as many as 750,000 civilian employees to go on unpaid leave because of automatic budget cuts that will force the department to cut $37 billion from its budget for the current fiscal year ending Sept. 30.

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