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Originally published Sunday, July 21, 2013 at 4:04 PM

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Editorial: Hagel’s defense cuts are welcome

Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel’s cuts in the top brass are a reasonable adjustment after two wars.

Seattle Times Editorial


THE U.S. defense secretary’s announcement of a 20-percent reduction in the number of top brass and senior civilians at the Pentagon by 2019 is welcome. Two foreign wars have created a galaxy of stars, bars and gold braid. As wars end, the generals, admirals and their advisers and aides need to thin out.

Federal law limits the numbers of generals and flag officers to 660 in the services plus 310 on joint duty, and recent reports have the actual numbers at about that amount. It is too many for a time of peace.

Secretary Chuck Hagel’s proposed cuts go further into the ranks. He’s talking about 3,000 to 5,000 positions in his office, the Joint Staff and command staffs of the Army, Navy, Marines and Air Force. Compared with the 2.1 million men and women on active duty it is not a big number, but it does save $1.5 billion to $2 billion over five years, and pension costs in the years after.

The slim-down comes out of an effort called the Strategic Choices and Management Review, which has been in the works for months. It is being announced at a time of spending cuts from sequestration, but Hagel intends for this plan to go forward independent of Congress’ success in cutting the deficit, and it should.

Done right, it should make the military less top-heavy and more focused on the core task of defending the United States and its vital interests.