Too Many Chiefs in Our Military Tribe?

May 09, 2015



  Words by Mike Weisbecker.

So Congress wants to cut the COLA on my retirement pay.   Supposedly this is the thread that, if pulled, will unravel the entire budget plan and bring about yet another government shutdown.  I think it’s more a case of “well they’re vets, they are used to being screwed.

I have a better plan.  The amount of generals & admirals, as well as Senior Executive Service (SES) civilians in the Defense Department is at ridiculous levels.  The worst offender is the Air Force.  According to an article from 2011 in the San Diego Union Tribune, the Air Force has 9.1 general officers per 10,000 airmen.  There were about 325,000 on active duty in 2011.  That is ludicrous.  Supposedly they will cut 39 of their 300 GO billets by the end of FY 14.  The Navy follows next with 234 admirals.  Both services had about the same number of personnel.  The Army was next with 322 flag officers for 527,000 troops.  Marines are lean and mean as usual with 88 generals for a bit over 200,000 marines.

Another thing that’s glaring about the Air Forces four star billets is that they have 9 besides the chief of staff and their vice.  Here is an idea: downgrade these 9 billets to three star positions.  Same goes for the other services, but the Air Force is the big offender here to me.  If a major command boss wants a fourth star, let them jockey for the chief of the service or vice position.  Or let them throw their hat in the ring for a unified command (think SOUTHCOM, NORTHCOM, CENTCOM).  The only service 4 stars should be the chief of staff (or equivalent) and their vice. 

One of the three card monty tricks that the Navy is playing is converting 50 of their flag billets to SES positions.  Sounds good right?  Well hang on a minute.  SES’s are flag equivalents and are accorded similar size staffs and perks as a military officer would get.  Their pay is pretty close.  Makes it look good when the service can say “look we cut 50  flag positions”.  Everyone sees the general or admiral in their service dress with the fruit salad reaching the stratosphere.  No one blinks twice at another old civilian in a Hugo Boss suit sitting amongst all the other suit and ties. 

One thing I will give the civilians.  When they come before Congress to testify, it’s one or two folks maybe at the table.  When a flag officer rolls onto the Hill to testify, he or she has more toadies and hangers on than most rap stars.  O-6’s running around like shavetail lieutenants.  Check it out on CSPAN sometime.

I’m all for cutting runaway spending and if it comes down to not getting as much COLA, I can live with that.  But these folks we elected better do the job we ask them to and look at a lot of other areas before they mess with something that was earned by everyone that put in their 20.