NEWS

Fewer Contractors in Gates' Pentagon Budget

By Matthew Harwood

During Defense Secretary Robert Gates' explanation of his recommended fiscal year 2010 budget yesterday, he proposed that the Pentagon should downsize the amount of private contractors it employs.

To do this, Gates proposed making 11,000 contractors that work in defense acquisition into full-time government employees by 2010.

But this is just one step in a larger process to decrease the number of contractors the Pentagon relies on.

Under this budget request, we will reduce the number of support-service contractors from our current 39 percent of the Pentagon workforce to the pre-2001 level of 26 percent, and replace them with full-time government employees.    Our goal is to hire as many as 13,000 new civil servants in FY '10 to replace contractors and up to 30,000 new civil servants in place of contractors over the next five years.

The new proposed budget announced yesterday is also an attempt by Gates and President Barack Obama to shift away from high-priced weapons systems that are overbudget, overdue, or obsolete.

"Collectively, [the recommendations] represent a budget crafted to reshape the priorities of America's defense establishment," Gates said. "If approved, these recommendations will profoundly reform how this department does business," adding that the shift in priorities is based on his extensive national security experience as well as lessons from Iraq and Afghanistan.

Among the big cuts include the F-22 Raptor, the Airborne Laser program, and a restructuring of the Army's Future Combat Systems (FCS) to ensure combat brigades get technological enhancements while scrapping the larger vehicle design project.

"I'm also concerned that, despite some adjustments, the FCS vehicles -- where lower weight, higher fuel efficiency and greater information awareness are expected to compensate for less armor -- do not adequately reflect the lessons of counterinsurgency and close-quarters combat in Iraq and Afghanistan."

The budget emphasizes getting troops on the ground the weapons and equipment they need to succeed in counterinsurgency and counterterrorism campaigns in places like Afghanistan, Iraq, and Pakistan rather than building the U.S. military around conventional threats from nation-states such as China and Russia.

For a good breakdown of Gates' proposed cuts, increases, and modifications, check out Stars and Stripes here.

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