Some serious restructuring in the United States military has led to the US hiring more and more highly paid senior officers to oversee fewer and fewer low-ranking personnel.
Speaking to the Senate yesterday, the Project on Government Oversight (POGO) watchdog group said that a top-heavy military is not only causing a burden for taxpayers but is inefficient for the overall operation of the Department of Defense.
POGO told a Senate panel on Thursday that admirals and generals, who start off with a base salary of over $227,000 annually, are doing work that could easily be carried out by junior officers. Compared to 20 years earlier, however, there are 500 fewer of those lower-ranking personnel on board. Instead, both the Navy and Air Force have added more and more high-paying positions.
“This progression towards a more top-heavy force is not without its consequences,” reads a testimony deliver to the Senate Armed Services Committee’s Subcommittee on Personnel on Thursday. “It is a burden for both taxpayers and military commanders. The cost of officers increases markedly with their rank, so taxpayers are overpaying whenever a general or flag officer is in a position that could be filled by a lower ranking officer.”
Additionally, POGO insists that the current structure of the in place “hinder[s] military effectiveness,” as it causes more and more time for top-brass to come to decisions. In their delivery to the Senate, POGO quotes former Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, who said that it would often take 30 levels of communication to move an order all the way down to an acting officer, resulting in a “bureaucracy which has the fine motor skills of a dinosaur.”
POGO is calling this phenomenon “brass creep,” as more and more high ranking officials slink into high-salary jobs seemingly undetected. They write that this movement has accelerated ever since the Cold War, all the while lower ranking positions were eliminated. POGO adds that “three- and four-star positions have increased faster than all other components of the DoD’s force of uniformed personnel,” a phenomenon that they are dubbing “star creep.” They also note that the branches of the military that are least crucial to the ongoing War on Terr00the Navy and Air Force — are the most common abusers of star creep.
In a series of recommendations delivered to the Senate, POGO is asking the Government Accountability Office to investigate the problem and suggests that Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta address the issue firsthand.