WASHINGTON (Army News Service, March 1, 2011) -- Becoming more efficient and innovative will be key to the Army's future as the service gradually downsizes end-strength between 2013 and 2015, said it's chief management officer Feb. 24.

Speaking at the Association of the U.S. Army's Institute of Land Warfare Winter Symposium and Exhibition in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., Under Secretary of the Army Joseph W. Westphal posed rhetorical questions and possible solutions to the looming challenges of budget cuts, troop balance and the reserve component.

Making comparisons to the Army he knew during the Clinton administration, Westphal said the Army operated on a tiered readiness model, a base budget of about $76 billion and that there was no ongoing war. Today, the Army operates on a cyclical readiness model and the base budget is nearly double at $145 billion with another $71 billion in contingency funding.

"This model -- cyclical readiness model -- also has forced us to rely more and more on the Reserve Component. I remember being in an Army that didn't want to do that, or didn't think that was as critical as it is today," he said. "I can tell you the leadership of this Army believes strongly that the operationalizing of the Reserve Component is critical to the future and critical to sustaining our model."

Westphal went on to say there would be more than a few issues with funding an operational Reserve and Guard as well as with the sustainment of that model in times of severe stress so "we're really going to have to think critically and analytically about how to do this."

He said during the past 10 years of war, the Army has mobilized from the Army Reserve and National Guard about 600,000 Soldiers. About 70,000 are mobilized today, and he added that the Army couldn't afford to go back to a tiered readiness model. It needs participation by the reserve component, he said, particularly since they bring so many skills to the table.

Since 2001, warfighting costs in Iraq and Afghanistan have exceeded more than $1 trillion and today, that charge comes to $12.5 billion monthly. The interest paid on the national debt alone at $400 billion is almost twice the budget of the Army, so you can imagine the tremendous impact that is having on the economic growth and development, he said.

The undersecretary added that it was fortunate and visionary that Secretary of Defense Robert M. Gates saw a challenge to the force structure in the department so he embarked on an efficiencies initiative.

"The reality was if we hadn't done what he asked us to do and we hadn't done it as quickly and as effectively as we did, we would be facing significant problems trying to find ways to address these budget reductions that we're seeing today," he said.

"Each of the services cut about $30 billion in moving basically redundancies and inefficiencies from tail to tooth," Westphal added. "In doing that, the Army was able to identify ways in which we could do this without really affecting the goals of reaching a one-to-two, one-to-three BOG ("boots on the ground" deployed) /dwell (stateside) ratio without affecting the participation of the reserve component and continuing to implement an ARFORGEN (Army Force Generation) model that we are now trying to both analytically and critically continue to improve and adapt."

Initially the president's deficit commission had identified "very, very big and very significant cuts to the Army and to the Department of Defense, and to our end strength, but the secretary's efficiency initiative was able to address some of the recommendations of the White House and stave off significant budget cuts that would have moved the Army back to fiscal year 08 levels," he said.

"So the strategic choices that we have before us today are I think very simple -- how big does the Army need to be'" he asked the crowd. "How big an Army can we afford as a nation' I guess you could answer that question two ways -- you have an Army as large as you need to have and affordability shouldn't necessarily be an issue.

"The secretary of defense and the president have indicated that our temporary end-strength increase of 22,000 Soldiers to address Stop-Loss and the large number of non-deployables that we've had will need to start coming down now into '13 and '14," he said.

Westphal noted another 27,000 Soldiers would be cut in 2014 and 2015.

On the other hand, according to Westphal, Congress and the general public want to support Soldiers, their missions and families, but they question whether DoD is as efficient as it could be.

"I think that kind of question is going to be more and more out there and we're going to have to do more and more to show efficiencies while doing away with inefficiencies," he said. "To answer these questions, I think the Army has to be able to make better decisions, decisions that are output-based, output-focused, performance-based and resource-informed. This is business transformation vocabulary."

The under secretary also said the Army would need to create more integration among the different elements in the force and would have to align better with the other services as well as DoD.