WASHINGTON (Army News Service, March 31, 2011) -- Under Secretary of the Army Joseph W. Westphal told senators March 29, that the Army's generating force has already taken significant cuts and must be preserved to ensure a pipeline of trained troops.

Westphal testified before the U.S. Senate Armed Services subcommittee on readiness and management support, chaired by Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.). The committee met to hear how the services proposed to cut costs and produce efficiencies called for by Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates.

Westphal spelled out the Army's stance on remaining strong: "In the Army, the generating force, all those elements of military and civilians that support our operational force, has been reduced in significant ways to support and to be part of the operating force.

"So part of what we need to do as we move forward in terms of efficiencies is to ensure that we don't further undermine the generating force, so that we always have ready and trained troops ready to go," Westphal said.

McCaskill began the meeting by outlining the cuts called for by Gates, while saying she understood the difficulty in achieving reductions in funding.

"Secretary Gates was on the right track when he announced a reduction in funding for service support contracts by 10 percent, per year, for three years; a freeze on the number of OSD, Defense Agency, and combatant command positions; a freeze on the number of federal officer, flag officer, and senior executive service positions; a review and reduction of the number of reports, studies and advisory boards; new limits on senior executive service positions and support contractors for DoD intelligence functions; and the elimination or consolidation of several Defense commands and agencies," McCaskill said.

While McCaskill was pleased with the military services proposing additional economy, including consolidation of functions and facilities; cuts to funding for recruiting and retention; increased use of flight simulators; reductions in inventories; deferral of military construction and lowering the priority of acquisition programs, she didn't mince words.

"It has seemed like pulling teeth to get the detailed information we need to understand exactly what you plan to do and why you think it's going to save money. But the information you have now provided is a huge step in the right direction," McCaskill said.

In the past 10 years, the Defense budget has grown from just under $300 billion in 2001 to almost $550 billion in 2011, McCaskill said.

"And that's the base budget. That is not counting the cost of overseas contingency operation, (and it's) not counting any of the costs that we have incurred in Iraq, Afghanistan or the current international assistance operation that is ongoing in Libya," McCaskill said.

The cost of this assistance, said Under Secretary of Defense Robert F. Hale (comptroller), was something his department was discussing that morning.

"The added cost incurred to date, about $550 million -- about 60 percent of that is for munitions. The future costs are very uncertain because we don't know the duration or frankly the operating tempo, but given the current plan, it looks like maybe $40 million a month. We're coming down sharply in terms of commitment as NATO takes control. But if we stay at that lower level, it'll be around $40 million a month in added cost," Hale said.

As the first witness, Hale spoke for all the services represented at the hearing about the deficit, security, and the need to shift funds from programs less closely related to war fighter capability.

"At the outset, let me note that, like Congress, we're mindful of the fact that the United States is dealing with significant physical and economic pressures that affect our nation and our nation's defenses," Hale said.

In order to protect the war fighter, he said, most of the savings need to come from improving business practices, reducing personnel costs and changing economic assumptions.

"We're proposing to slow the growth in military medical costs while we continue to provide troops and the families and retirees high-quality medical care; implement a DoD-wide freeze on civilian billets, with some limited exceptions, such as the one for the acquisition work force; reduce by 30 percent the number of contractor employees performing staff augmentation work; and streamline the department's organizational structure and the business transformation agency," Hale said.

The Army identified many efficiencies throughout the process to gain about $29 billion in savings, all while ensuring that the generating force isn't undermined.

"For example, we made sure that support for base operations was an important investment, ensuring the maintenance and growth and sustainment of the generating force," Westphal said.

"In the Army, we knew we had a tremendous need to bring more folks into the workforce to help us with counseling, substance abuse, suicide. We have a pretty significant personnel need there. We were able to shift some of our resources to that," Westphal said.

One of those shifted resources came from the elimination or termination of major weapon systems, he said, led by Army Vice Chief of Staff Gen. Peter Chiarelli and himself. Last month Chiarelli testified to the House Armed Services Committee that efficiencies were gained by eliminating the SLAMRAAM air-defense system.

Other resources were shifted to grow the network for the Army.

"The network, which is one of the most critical and most important priorities for the Army, something that is very costly, we were able to shift more resources to pushing the network further ahead in the hopes of really making great progress in that particular area -- to support the war fighter, today," Westphal said.

Though the cuts in funding have proven to be difficult, Westphal and the under secretaries of the Navy and Air Force said they realized the need.

"We believe that the secretary's efficiency initiative for the Army was the beginning of the effort to become much more adept at addressing the very difficult issues of how do we reduce, how do we shift resources," Westphal said.

Page last updated Thu March 31st, 2011 at 10:06