Centcom Cuts 1,100 Jobs

March 14th, 2008  
Team Infidel

Topic: Centcom Cuts 1,100 Jobs

Tampa Tribune
March 13, 2008
Pg. 1
By Baird Helgeson, The Tampa Tribune
TAMPA - The retiring head of U.S. Central Command is cutting about 1,100 positions, or a third, from the operation responsible for running the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
The staff reduction is the result of a cost-control initiative that began last year after Adm. William Fallon arrived in Tampa to take command at Centcom's MacDill Air Force Base headquarters.
It will mean a leaner staff at Centcom by keeping more personnel in place at other bases and military operations around the world. Although a spokesman says it will not detract from Centcom's mission in running the wars, the expected effect on the local economy is causing alarm.
There are about 3,400 staff members at Centcom, said U.S. Navy Capt. James Graybeal, a command spokesman.
"The goal is to make sure we are using our resources as efficiently as possible," he said Wednesday.
News of the reduction came a day after Fallon, the four-star Navy admiral who took over the command's top post a year ago, abruptly announced in Iraq that he was stepping down at the end of the month. Military experts blamed the resignation at least in part on his increasingly public disagreements with the Bush administration over policy on Iran and the war in Iraq.
Fallon was returning from Iraq and could not be reached for comment.
The cuts won't result in layoffs, Graybeal said.
The positions eliminated are typically filled by reservists and personnel from other military operations on temporary assignments that last six months to a year.
Once someone's temporary job ends, the position will vanish and not be filled by someone new.
Graybeal said he did not know the average salary of the jobs to be eliminated. The reductions began late last year and should be complete by the end of September, he said. It will not be until then, he said, that the actual savings will be known.
He was not aware of any civilian jobs that will be lost.
Over the course of several years, the number of temporary staff members had ballooned, and included positions in nearly every corner of the operation.
In May, about two months after he took over at Centcom, the admiral asked staff to find ways to operate more efficiently and set the goal of reducing the staff by about a third.
"I think we'll be pretty close to that goal," Graybeal said.
Wednesday's news stunned community leaders. Hillsborough County Commissioner Rose Ferlita said county and city officials should hold an emergency meeting to see whether there is any way to persuade officials to save positions.
"This community needs them," Ferlita said.
The cutbacks will hurt the base, South Tampa and the entire city, Tampa City Councilman John Dingfelder said.
"I'm hopeful that perhaps maybe the new head of Centcom might change his mind and not be as drastic as the outgoing admiral," Dingfelder said. "The base is still very diverse and we have heard about some increases in units coming to the base."
City Economic Development Administrator Mark Huey said those who work at the base live and spend money in the community.
The base is a major employer, he said, and those employees support businesses in the community. The base also has several construction and defense contracts with local businesses. Many who work at MacDill, he said, also end up retiring in Tampa.
"Losing 1,100 jobs is significant," Huey said. "It's another reminder how important the base is and how much they contribute to our economy on an everyday basis. This will be disappointing."
The Air Force base employs about 6,600 military and civilian personnel and generates about $3.5 billion a year in the local economy, according to the military. About 80 percent of the military members live off the base.
The chairwoman of the Greater Tampa Chamber of Commerce, University of South Florida President Judy Genshaft, said she is concerned that staff cuts will hurt the economic vitality of the area.
"I can tell you MacDill is our second-largest employer and, of course, reducing it by 1,100 is a lot; it's huge," she said.
Reporters Ellen Gedalius and Lindsay Peterson contributed to this report.

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