Pentagon to Close Va. Military Command, Shed Contractor Jobs

That includes some of the Pentagon's most senior military and civilian leaders. Gates said he was freezing the number of senior generals, admirals and top civilian positions at current levels.

He said that since 9/11, the number of generals and admirals had grown in number by 50, and that the number of senior civilian posts had increased by 300. Gates anticipated a reduction in those numbers by "at least" half following a review of their numbers.

Gates said the cost-saving measures announced today have the full support of senior Pentagon leaders as well as the Obama administration.

He acknowledged that pushing through with further reforms likely will mean he will remain in charge of the Defense Department beyond the year-long extension he had agreed to last fall when he became the first secretary of defense to serve under both a Republican and Democratic administration.

"As far as I'm concerned, all I will say is that I'm going to be here longer than either I or others thought," said Gates.

Gates added that the Department would seek to reduce the number of internal reports that consume time and effort.

"This department is awash in taskings for reports and studies, he said, noting that in 1970 the Department produced 37 reports for Congress, a number that had grown to 700 last year.

Those same reports created jobs for contractors, some 200 of whom worked full time just on producing these and other internal reports.

Gates outlined his desire to trim the department's overhead costs in a speech delivered in May at the Eisenhower Library in Abilene, Kan. At the time. he cautioned that the "gusher of defense spending" in the wake of 9/11 was about to end and that the Defense Department was in store for financial belt-tightening if it was to maintain its current operations with smaller annual budget increases.

In an indication that the reform within the Pentagon isn't finished, Gates said there were "no sacred cows" and that "health care reform [is] on my agenda."

The military's health care costs have grown exponentially in recent years as the premiums for TRICARE have not risen with inflation.

Said Gates, "Everybody knows that we're being eaten alive by health care."

He said the department's annual health care costs were $19 billion in 2001 and are currently at $50 billion at a time when the department's overall budget will likely increase by one percent.

Gates said those costs are "unsustainable."

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