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Army leaders at AUSA promise not to cut family programs

By C. Todd Lopez

WASHINGTON (Oct. 25, 2010) -- Army leaders promised to leave family support programs intact when looking for ways to lean out the service's massive budget.

"We want to ensure that the family programs we're operating are run well and efficiently and if we need to make adjustments so they can be more so, that's fine," said Secretary of the Army John M. McHugh. "But what we won't do particularly as a first reaction, is look to those programs as a source of budgetary savings."

A man in a business suit suit stands behind a lectern.  The lectern has a sign on it that says "Association of the United States Army."
During an opening presentation at the 2010 Association of the United States Army's Annual Meeting and Exposition in Washington, D.C., Secretary of the Army John M. McHugh discussed the Army's challenge of operating in a constrained budget environment as well as efforts to modernize the Army.

During the Oct. 25 opening presentation at the 2010 Association of the United States Army's Annual Meeting and Exposition in Washington, D.C., McHugh discussed the Army's challenge of operating in a constrained budget environment as well as efforts to modernize the Army. He and Chief of Staff of the Army George W. Casey Jr. went into more detail during a press conference immediately following that ceremony.

In regard to a challenge by Secretary of Defense Robert Gates to the military services to find ways to trim some $100 billion from the defense budget over the next five years, the Army's two senior leaders said they won't look to family support programs -- which they say are important to supporting the all-volunteer force -- but will instead look to things like restructuring commands and doing "portfolio reviews" of Army capabilities.

"A lot of what we're finding is coming out of capability portfolio reviews and it's basically redundant programs or nonperforming programs," said Casey, also adding the Army is looking at force structures. "We're asking ourselves, for example, do we still need a four-star general in Army Europe and what should a support force structure in Europe look like? I suspect we'll be able to garner some significant military and civilian savings at those headquarters."

Those portfolio reviews, said McHugh, "already show great promise in bringing better discipline to our programs -- better evaluating and realigning our requirements with the reality of today and where we think tomorrow is going."

The secretary said a task force is working now and will provide a report within 90 days, though he is getting updates on their progress. He also said a good budget policy starts with people.

"We can't have an Army without people," he said. "All our efforts must start with them, with training and education -- the things that create our greatest hedge against future threats. That hedge: adaptive, innovative, thinking enlisted Soldiers, officers and NCOs -- folks who will make a difference."

McHugh also discussed a new project, an effort to modernize the institutional Army, or generating force. That's the portion of the Army whose primary mission is to generate and sustain the operational Army's capabilities for employment by joint force commanders.

"The operational Army has changed dramatically," McHugh said, explaining that 10 years of conflict in Iraq and Afghanistan have changed the way the Army fights and reacts. But the institutional Army, he said, the generating force, has not changed. "It looks pretty much the same as it did structurally since the early to mid-1970s."

The secretary said there are examples of changes in the institutional Army in the past, including a reorganization of the War Department by Gen. George C. Marshall, and, after the Vietnam War, Operation Steadfast, which reorganized the Army and built an all-volunteer force.

"But these models really don't address what I call the new paradigm. America's enemies are no longer solely defined by nations or contained by borders, because they are not," McHugh said. "Our combat formations quickly adapt to changes in terrain, mission and the enemy they face. I believe the institutions and processes we have to help those forces do better, need to change as well."

The Army's chief of staff also discussed the Army's effort to restore balance to the force, which it has been working on since 2007.

"With the drawdown in Iraq, we are getting to a situation where we can breathe again," he said. "When you're only home for 12-15 months between deployments, you really don't have much time to breathe -- you take a break then you get back on the treadmill and get ready to go."

He said as a result of the increased growth the Army completed in 2009 and a temporary end-strength increase of 22,000 by the secretary of defense in July 2009, units are home for 15 to 18 months now, and the units that are deploying toward the end of this year will end up in the 18 to 24-month range.

"Increasing the time the Soldiers spend at home is the most important element of getting ourselves back in balance," Casey said.

The general also touched on other Army efforts, including modular conversions. He said the service has converted about 290 of the 300 brigades to modular designs. Also, he mentioned an effort to move Soldiers out of Cold War-era career fields and into specialties more relevant to today's conflicts. He said so far some 124,000 Soldiers have been converted, and by this time next year that number will be 150,000. That move, he said is "significantly increasing our ability to do the 21st-century tasks."

Casey also said in the Army's second decade of combat it faces several challenges, including maintaining a combat edge, reconstituting the force and building resilience.

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