WASHINGTON — Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates said Monday that he would close a military command, restrict the use of outside contractors and reduce the number of generals and admirals across the armed forces as part of a broad effort to rein in Pentagon spending.
“The funds saved will help us sustain the current force structure and make needed investments in modernization in a fiscally responsible way,” President Obama said in a statement.
The potential savings Mr. Gates outlined are likely to be relatively modest in the context of a total Pentagon budget, including war fighting costs, projected to top $700 billion next year. The most significant step — in symbol and in substance — was his plan to close the military’s Joint Forces Command in Norfolk, Va.
The command includes about 2,800 military and civilian positions supported by 3,000 contractors at an annual cost of $240 million.
And he went after one of the military’s most sacrosanct personnel structures, placing a cap on the number of generals, admirals and senior civilian positions. Mr. Gates has ordered the armed services and the Pentagon’s agencies to find $100 billion in spending cuts and efficiencies over the next five years: $7 billion for 2012, growing to $37 billion annually by 2016.
Mr. Gates also called for a 10 percent annual reduction in spending on contractors who provide support services to the military, including money for intelligence-related contracts, and he placed a freeze on the number of workers in the office of the secretary of defense, other Pentagon supervisory agencies and the headquarters of the military’s combat commands.