The 2017 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) as summarized by the Senate Armed Services Committee proposes a 25 percent reduction in Generals and Admirals across the board.
A summary of the bill provided by the committee states the drawdown in general officers also applies at the 3, 2, and 1 star levels. The committee reasons that “Over the past 30 years, the end-strength of the joint force has decreased 38 percent, but the ratio of four-star officers to the overall force has increased by 65 percent.”
Senator Tim Kaine expressed concern over the reduction in general officers, telling Military.com, “Twenty-five percent was the number that was pulled out of thin air.” The NDAA states that the 25 percent number was agreed upon only by “careful consideration of the existing size of the general and flag officer corps in each service, as well as its unique requirements.”
The bill summary explains that by making heavy cuts at the three and four star level, it can “allow the services a broader base to develop future leaders.” The summary also cites budget concerns as a reason for the reduction, saying the Pentagon must proactively work to “shift as many personnel as possible from staff functions to operational and other vital roles.”
The NDAA reduces the number of four star positions in the military from 41 to 27. Bureaucratic bloat and over involvement by general officers has plagued the ongoing U.S. effort against the Islamic State. In late March the Daily Beast reported that as many as 21 general officers were involved in the war on ISIS. Furthermore, each of these generals is accompanied by a mandatory litany of aides and staff officers.
Twenty-one generals is an exceptionally high number for the only 5000 troops deployed to Iraq and approximately 250 U.S. special operations forces within Syria, especially considering they are not officially engaged in a combat mission.
Getting rid of a large number of generals is not a new idea. Then Defense secretary Chuck Hagel proposed cutting the number of Generals by 20% but was not in office long enough to achieve his goal. Secretary Robert Gates, who served under Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama, once proposed reducing the number of generals by 50 as a cost cutting measure.
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