Army Leadership Discusses Budget Outlook

WASHINGTON, Oct. 11, 2011 — Addi­tion­al bud­get cuts beyond the $450 bil­lion the Defense Depart­ment already has planned for the next 10 years would be “cat­a­stroph­ic,” Army Sec­re­tary John M. McHugh said yes­ter­day.

Speak­ing at the open­ing day of the 2011 Asso­ci­a­tion of the U.S. Army’s annu­al meet­ing and expo­si­tion here, McHugh said the poten­tial for the depart­ment to face addi­tion­al bud­get cuts of $500 bil­lion to $600 bil­lion in the next decade keeps him up at night. Those addi­tion­al cuts could hap­pen if a con­gres­sion­al “super com­mit­tee” look­ing at ways to reduce the fed­er­al debt by $1.2 tril­lion can’t come to agree­ment by Thanks­giv­ing. If that hap­pens, the debt reduc­tion law passed over the sum­mer forces a “seques­tra­tion,” by which as much as half that amount must come from nation­al secu­ri­ty spend­ing.

“I think we’re in a pos­i­tive posi­tion to accom­mo­date at least the $450 bil­lion or so in cuts that have been sched­uled against the DOD to this point,” McHugh told a pan­el of jour­nal­ists at the meet­ing. But seques­tra­tion would be cat­a­stroph­ic, he added, “cer­tain­ly to the Army and cer­tain­ly to our nation­al defense pos­ture.”

Army Chief of Staff Gen. Ray­mond T. Odier­no said at the meet­ing that the poten­tial for a “hol­low force” would not come to fruition. Instead, he said, a ready and capa­ble force would exist, though its size might be affect­ed.

“No mat­ter what hap­pens, we are not going to have a hol­low force,” Odier­no said. “We are going to have a force that is a cer­tain size that has the mod­ern­iza­tion and readi­ness nec­es­sary to be qual­i­ty.”

McHugh and Odier­no agreed that defense cuts like­ly would be shared equal­ly across the ser­vices.

Ear­li­er, at the open­ing cer­e­mo­ny of the AUSA event, McHugh addressed more than 3,000 guests, includ­ing sol­diers, civil­ian employ­ees and defense con­trac­tors. He point­ed out that while all ser­vices con­tribute to the fight, the Army car­ries the brunt of the mis­sion in both Iraq and Afghanistan.

“There’s no get­ting around the fact that it is the Army that has been sad­dled with much of the bur­den these past years, pro­vid­ing between 50 to 70 per­cent of our deploy­able forces,” he said. “While I am loath to view our men and women in uni­form as mere bud­getary sta­tis­tics, I think it is impor­tant to remind peo­ple that while the U.S. Army rep­re­sents half of our nation’s entire force, we con­sume only a quar­ter to 30 per­cent of the entire defense bud­get.”

The sec­re­tary said deci­sion mak­ers often fail to cor­rect­ly pre­dict the nature of future con­flicts and that fol­low­ing con­flicts like World War I, World War II and Korea, for instance, bas­ing bud­get deci­sions on the notion that ground forces were no longer rel­e­vant. Those deci­sions end­ed up deplet­ing Army forces and reduc­ing qual­i­ty of life for sol­diers and their fam­i­lies, McHugh said.

This time, he added, the Army has seen the eco­nom­ic down­turn in advance, as well as the impend­ing bud­get cuts.

“Unlike in the past, this time we have seen this down­turn com­ing for some time,” he said. “We have been ana­lyz­ing the best ways to meet these chal­lenges, and as such, I can tell you we are bet­ter posi­tioned than at any time in our nation’s his­to­ry to deal with the fis­cal real­i­ties and do it in a way that tru­ly makes sense.”

Part of deal­ing with fis­cal real­i­ties, McHugh said, is cuts to the total num­ber of men and women in uni­form. The end strength will even­tu­al­ly look dif­fer­ent than it does now, and with the draw­downs in Iraq and Afghanistan, the Army can han­dle the chal­lenge of end-strength reduc­tions, he said.

“But what is crit­i­cal­ly impor­tant is that no mat­ter what the force ulti­mate­ly looks like, we have suf­fi­cient time to ramp down to ensure we do it in a bal­anced way, and that we have what is nec­es­sary for train­ing and equip­ment and reset,” McHugh said.

Anoth­er con­cern, he said, are sug­ges­tions that some of the ser­vices recov­er at the sac­ri­fices of oth­ers and that the Unit­ed States prob­a­bly does­n’t need a strong and deci­sive stand­ing Army. In that point of view, the future resem­bles the motion pic­ture “Trans­form­ers” more than it does the film “Sav­ing Pri­vate Ryan,” McHugh told the audi­ence. “His­to­ry looms before us once again,” he added.

McHugh said that while air pow­er and tech­nol­o­gy are crit­i­cal, America’s ene­mies often don’t fight the way Amer­i­cans pre­dicts they will. Boots on the ground, he said, are crit­i­cal for the nation’s defense.

“No major con­flict has ever been won with­out boots on the ground,” he said. “And accord­ing­ly, our nation­al inter­ests demand that while we set about the task of reshap­ing this Army for the years ahead, we remain stead­fast and con­tin­ue to sup­port this, the great­est land force the world has ever known.”

Efforts to help the Army find ways to save mon­ey and absorb loom­ing bud­get cuts already are under way, McHugh said.

For exam­ple, he said, the ser­vice is remov­ing redun­dan­cies and over­lap in research. Addi­tion­al­ly, McHugh said, he has asked that the Army look into the mul­ti­ple and expen­sive tem­po­rary task forces that have become “per­ma­nent.”

Also under way, he added, are efforts to stream­line the require­ments process, to reform the Instal­la­tion Man­age­ment Com­mand, and to make “sweep­ing changes” to human cap­i­tal man­age­ment.

McHugh said changes will be made to find cost sav­ings with­in the Army Ser­vice Acqui­si­tion pro­gram, where $243 bil­lion was spent in 2010 — includ­ing $140 bil­lion on con­tracts, more than half of that on ser­vices.

A McHugh-issued direc­tive will cre­ate a new gov­ern­ment struc­ture that will con­sol­i­date about 45 per­cent of ser­vice oblig­a­tions into six port­fo­lio man­age­ment cen­ters, he said. Those include facil­i­ty sup­port ser­vices, med­ical ser­vices, trans­porta­tion ser­vices, elec­tron­ics and com­mu­ni­ca­tions, equip­ment relat­ed ser­vices, and knowl­edge-based ser­vices.

“This will, I believe, improve over­sight effec­tive­ness, while help­ing us tai­lor and apply and mon­i­tor the results of bet­ter buy­ing prac­tices for improved acqui­si­tion, as well as lever­ag­ing port­fo­lio demand for bet­ter prices,” he said. Those types of actions, he said, will help the Army deal with the bud­gets that will be made for the ser­vice by oth­ers.

McHugh said he will help to guide the Army through the bud­get cri­sis, and will keep sol­diers in mind when doing so.

“We can, we must — and I promise you — we will do bet­ter,” he said.

U.S. Depart­ment of Defense
Office of the Assis­tant Sec­re­tary of Defense (Pub­lic Affairs)