FORT HOOD, Texas -- Maj. Gen. Robert S. Ferrell, commander of the U.S. Army Communications-Electronics Command made his first official visit to the Central Technical Support Facility, here March 14, where he discussed the challenges that lie ahead, for the Fort Hood-based facility, and for CECOM.

Ferrell, who assumed command of CECOM in early February, spoke to an all-hands audience of CTSF employees, comparing the impact to the Army of post-war budget cuts to a tsunami.
"We've got a lot of things going on," Ferrell said, "and the budget wave is going to hit."

Ferrell said it will be a major portion of his job to answer the question of how to keep "a lot of things going on" in the face of shrinking allocations.

"With us coming out of a war […] It is no secret to you all that the current budget and fiscal environment is going to cause change," he said.

Ferrell told his audience that budget-driven changes pose some serious questions, not the least of which involves how CECOM can afford to keep up its high level of support to the Warfighter.

"We know," he said, "we are going to need more involvement in the NIE (Network Integration Evaluations), we need to develop more efficiencies in field support, we need to develop more involvement in the cyber area, and we need to ask how we get more involved with being the Army's lead adviser in IT (Information Technology) matters."

"We need to figure out how we can afford to do all of these things a year from now," he added.
Ferrell, no stranger to Fort Hood, having served with the 1st Cavalry Division in the late 1990s, said the "big topic" at the moment in fiscal planning at the command level is manpower reduction.

After taking a hard look at manpower across the command, Ferrell said CECOM employment should remain steady for the current year.

"We're on a glide path to be good for 2012. By putting a (hiring) freeze in place, and doing an internal scrub, we've been able to get things under control. But (fiscal years) 13 and 14," he added, "we're going to have to take a year at a time."

Ferrell then turned his remarks to a proposed course of action that would see the CTSF's core missions -- interoperability certification testing, configuration management, and system engineering and integration -- being moved to CECOM's home turf at Aberdeen Proving Ground, Md.

"Well," he began, "I'm going to tell you the fact -- all I know to date," he said. His comments echoed the words of his predecessor, Maj. Gen. Randolph P. Strong.

"No decision has been made yet," he said. "And if a decision were to be made today, the CTSF wouldn't even begin to move until spring or summer of next year."

That, he said would be due to several things. First, he said, a decision brief is still being prepared. When it is finalized is has to go up through the chain of command, all the way to the Secretary of the Army, whose word will be final.

Secondly, and, for now, most important, there is, in his words "no money" available to fund such a move.

"Our CECOM G-8, and the (Army Materiel Command) G-8 have been tasked to find the money," he said.

He said it would be, at the very least, a month before a decision brief could be finalized and before it reached the desk at the top of the chain.

"But," he said, "we need to take a knee on this, and focus on meeting our mission requirements here (at the CTSF)."

Ferrell said his primary concern at the present is assuring that CECOM remains relevant.

"My concern is that when the dollars start going away, how things will play out. How do we stay the go-to agency of the Army," he said.

CECOM, Ferrell said, is currently the largest of the 80 tenants at Aberdeen Proving Ground, and he wants it to stay large in terms of its importance to the big Army.

"What I'm challenged to do now," he said, "is to look at what's next."

Ferrell began his visit to the CTSF with a tour to the facility's test, configuration management, and system engineering and integration areas.

He ended his visiting, promising to return.

"I hope to get back again soon," he said.