WASHINGTON, Aug. 16, 2011 -- Joseph W. Westphal, the 30th under secretary of the Army and the service's chief management officer, is responsible for providing trained and ready forces for combat commanders.

"That's a big job which entails providing those forces, getting them ready and deploying them," said Westphal.

Westphal pointed out there are Soldiers deployed in more than 80 countries around the world and there is a tremendous demand [still] for Soldiers everywhere by our combat commanders.

"We're in combat operations in Afghanistan and we still have quite a bit of activity going on in Iraq, although we're drawing down rapidly in that theater of operations," he said. "The challenge is to provide those forces at a time when a lot of stress is faced with multiple deployments from nine years at war."

He said the demands are slowing down despite trends and declining operations.

"One of the big challenges is to keep our Army in good standing [and] moving forward as required to train, equip and support the Army," said Westphal.

Westphal is also tasked with the efficiency and effectiveness of the business operations of the Army. "Those are the priorities, to continue to do this well -- as best as possible -- but now, with possibly fewer resources."

One of the biggest challenges the Army faces is budget reductions. On Aug. 4, the Army announced it will reduce the size of its civilian employee workforce by more than 8,700 people, by Sept. 30, 2012. The press release states "these cuts are based on Department of Defense resource decisions as reflected in the fiscal year 2012 president's budget and require a reduction of Army civilian employees to comply with decreased funding levels."

Regarding how these budget restrictions will impact the Department of the Army, Westphal recalled the major drawdown when the Army was reduced significantly after the Vietnam War. He said the impact, particularly in the late '70s and '80s did not allow the Army to come out very balanced.

The under secretary said he feels the focus with the current budget cuts can be done in a manner which allows the Army a balanced force for the future.

Westphal said those are things the Army has to manage well in anticipation of reductions in the future.

"If we do that right [a 27,000 Soldier reduction] and manage that reduction and the end strength of the Army in a thoughtful and efficient manner, we will not hurt Soldiers and families. We will not create a hollowed force and we will come out balanced," he said.

As the economy improves, Westphal feels the Army wants to be able to move Soldiers in ways that are beneficial to them.

"This all takes great planning, but we're trying to manage this," said Westphal. "The Secretary of the Army is very committed to the welfare of Soldiers and their families. We're bound and determined to do everything we can to protect them," he said.

Westphal has served as a member of President Obama's transition team for defense matters as well as other prestigious and varied jobs in public service, including experience working in Congress and other departments in the executive branch. He served as the assistant secretary of the Army for Civil Works from 1998 to 2001 and in 2001, served as acting Secretary of the Army.

"When I was here before, I defended a budget of about $77 billion and that budget has almost doubled," said Westphal. "The size of the force significantly increased to meet the current demands for our combat operations."

"We have taken some rather dramatic [budget] hits in what we call the generating force so that part of the force which is not the operational part, which supports the operating force with military and civilians, has been reduced significantly to make way for the operating force -- more Soldiers and civilians -- helping in combat operations," said Westphal. "We need to bring the generating force back in balance."

Westphal also noted today's Army is more combat-ready than in previous years.

"Our Soldiers today are a bit different than they were 10 years ago, in some ways technologically and in some ways more sophisticated," he said. "We're evolving into a truly great force, so our biggest issue is if we need to reduce the Army over time, and I think we will, is to do it in a way we don't lose the capacity and capability of our great Army."

There are Soldiers who have only known an Army in combat, said Westphal.

For Soldiers returning home and adjusting to routines of daily life, he said it is interesting to see how Soldiers adapt.

"Many of the Soldiers who have been in combat will be future leaders in the Army. It's up to us to get them out of this tactical thinking they have right now and put them back on post to train the next set of leaders for the future," he said.

Another concern of the Army of the future are the health issues, said Westphal.

"We've seen issues relating to suicides, traumatic brain injury, the stress of multiple deployments and the stress it can put on families," he said. "We have a lot of female Soldiers who have deployed multiple times. The stress may be different in some ways, yet in other ways, it may be the same."

"This should be of great concern to us as we evolve out of combat operations. Then we are able to take the time to continue to focus on these issues," the under secretary said. "It behooves us not to take away this focus as these operations wind down and these issues will still be there."

He recently completed a week-long visit to Central and South America, visting key U.S. State Department officials and partner nation military leaders in Honduras, Guatemala, El Salvador and Colombia.

Westphal visited the region in order to understand the missions and operations of the Army and partner nations and become familiar with partner nation capabilities to ensure the Army is supporting efforts to promote security and stability in the region.

"My main objective for the trip was to familiarize, and in some cases re-familiarize, myself with the security situation of each nation so that I can better advise the secretary of the Army and use that information when considering Army support and resources for our activities in Central and South America," Westphal said. "I also wanted to understand the security priorities and concerns of each nation to ensure that our armies are working together for our mutual benefit in terms of security and stability operations."

He met with Joint Task Force Bravo in Honduras to talk with servicemembers and get a sense of the mission the U.S. military does in the region every day. Joint Task Force Bravo has a mission to counter narcotics trafficking, assist with humanitarian and disaster relief and build partner nation capacity.

After meeting key leaders in Guatemala and El Salvador, Westphal met with U.S. Exchange Soldiers in Colombia who discussed their roles as members of the Military Personnel Exchange Program.

"I was very impressed with how well our military forces are working together with our partner nation forces," Westphal said. "In each country I visited I saw how close cooperation and partnership can greatly assist our common goal to ensure stability and security in the region."

Starting and ending with the chance to talk with Soldiers, Westphal's trip provided him an opportunity to see Army operation in an important region of the world.

Westphal said the headquarters of our Army in Washington is the organization and entity that reflects the values of our Army to everyone.

"I want to commend our civil servants and military for their professionalism, hard work, commitment and dedication. It's amazing to me," he said. "I think it takes us a long way in getting what we need from both the administration and the Congress. I'm very thankful for the work people in government do to support and serve their country."