Last week, Under Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter provided details of the 20 percent cuts to headquarters (HQ) staffs announced by Secretary Chuck Hagel last month.

In a memo to senior DoD leaders, Carter reiterated the statement made by Hagel that the HQ cuts would take place regardless of the outcome of sequester negotiations between the administration and the Congress

Carter described the broad coverage of the staff reductions. The cuts will occur in all “higher” headquarters staffs, including principal Office of the Secretary of Defense (OSD) and Defense Agency staffs, Joints Chiefs of Staff (JCS) staffs, service secretary and service chief staffs, service major commands and component commands, lower-level staffs determined by the service secretaries and chiefs, and Combatant Command staffs. Cuts to intelligence staffs will occur at military-intelligence-program funded intelligence centers and at national-intelligence-program funded intelligence centers (with Director of National Intelligence concurrence).

The 20 percent cut will apply to budget dollars for total headquarters budgets, which include DoD civilian personnel, contract services, facilities, information technology, and other HQ support functions. Components are directed to try to achieve a 20 percent reduction in HQ authorized civilian staff levels. And, even though military personnel costs are not included in HQ budgets, military organizations are urged to try to achieve a 20 percent cut in military personnel billets in HQ staffs. Carter emphasized that subordinate headquarters staffs are not expected to grow as a result of cuts to higher headquarters.

Plans for these cuts will be included in Program Objective Memoranda submitted on September 23. Carter urged senior managers to move quickly and aggressively to implement these cuts. Cuts should be made proportionally by fiscal year across the FYDP (one fifths per year through FY2019), but components can make some cuts in FY2014 in order to reduce reductions in later years.

Cater said he understands that these cuts present a challenge to DoD managers, but stressed that continuing downward pressure on DoD budgets requires DoD components to continue to cut HQ staffs and budgets.