Wednesday, Dec. 07, 2011

How the Military Brass Dodges Budget-Cut Bullets

Early in 2011, then Defense Secretary Robert Gates proposed cutting $78 billion from the military budget over the next five years, in the process eliminating the positions of 102 generals and admirals — about 10% of the top brass. Needless to say, those who wear or want the stars on their uniforms were not pleased. As TIME's Mark Thompson noted in April, efforts to cut $1 trillion in defense spending over the next decade aren't going too well. The Navy has started constructing a $15 billion aircraft carrier to follow the one-fifth-completed and equally-costly USS Gerald R. Ford. Hopes that Gates' successor, Leon Panetta, would pick up his predecessor's budget-cutting axe were dimmed somewhat when the congressional "super committee" failed to agree on budget cuts, leaving Panetta warning that the resulting half trillion in additional cuts would create a "hollow force." The ranks of the brass, meanwhile, continue to grow: Over the past seven years, the Air Force has cut more than 42,000 personnel — while adding 44 generals. Last month, Panetta issued a list of 39 colonels being promoted en masse to brigadier general.