By Benjamin Freeman
The U.S. military is more top-heavy than it has ever been, and this bloat is a threat to national security. It slows decision-making and wastes money better used combating 21st century threats.
The bureaucracies that surround top commanders have grown drastically. Since the war in Afghanistan began in 2001, military and civilian positions at the combatant commands that some of the military’s approximately three dozen four-star officers oversee has increased by about 50 percent, according to the Government Accountability Office. The number of support personnel that top generals and admirals command has grown so much that the ratio of civilian personnel to troops is higher than it has ever been.
The bureaucracies that surround top commanders have grown drastically, and the taxpayer-financed perks these commanders enjoy is immense.
War-fighters looking to make quick decisions on the battlefield are buried beneath this colossal bureaucracy.
“In some cases the gap between me and an action officer may be as high as 30 layers,” bemoaned the former secretary of defense, Robert Gates. The result, according to Gates, is “a bureaucracy which has the fine motor skills of a dinosaur.”
In addition to stymieing military effectiveness, the cost of the top-heavy military is immense. Just the basic pay and compensation of a four-star officer costs taxpayers more than $225,000 a year. When they retire, each of these generals and admirals can cost taxpayers over a million dollars a year. The taxpayer-financed perks these commanders enjoy is immense and, as a Third Way report documents, includes: mansions, private jets, chefs, gardeners, drivers, personal assistants and even string quartets for dinner parties.
But the greatest costs are from the expansive bureaucracies that have grown beneath these top commanders. According to the G.A.O., the cost to taxpayers of the combatant commands many of these generals and admirals sit atop more than doubled from 2007 to 2012 — topping $1 billion.
Despite efforts to curtail this problem, the trend toward a more top-heavy military has continued. This threatens the effectiveness of the brave men and women who fight to defend our nation, and wastes money the Pentagon needs to combat 21st century threats. Curtailing the bloated Pentagon bureaucracy isn’t simply a matter of promoting efficiency or eliminating waste, it’s a national security priority. Failure to act now will result in a military that’s more expensive, less effective and less capable of defending U.S. interests.