By Skip Vaughn (The Redstone Rocket)November 23, 2012
Undersecretary of the Army Joseph Westphal is optimistic that sequestration will be averted.
"We're not planning for sequestration," Westphal said of the automatic budget cuts that would go into effect in January. "We're hopeful and believe Congress and the president will find a way to avoid that type of cut. I'm more optimistic that most that our leadership will find a way forward."
Westphal was interviewed at the end of his visit Nov. 14 to Redstone Arsenal.
Asked about his level of concern about the defense budget, he said, "I'm very concerned about it. We're funded one year at a time, so every year poses new challenges."
He was asked how sequestration if implemented would impact the Army. "Sequestration is an unknown," Westphal said. "We know that it will have a significant impact but how that impact will affect us is very, very difficult to foretell."
With budget cuts looming, Westphal said the Army will try to ensure the least impact to its work force.
"Our biggest priority is to do this in a way that first of all we don't undermine the critical security needs of this country," he said.
Regarding possible work force reductions, Westphal said officials would try to use natural attrition and find ways that are "the least painful to people." At the same time, the Army's aging work force "requires us to think about being able to recruit and retain as we go forward."
Westphal met with leaders, Soldiers and civilians at the Space and Missile Defense Command/Army Forces Strategic Command, Army Materiel Command and the Program Executive Office for Missiles and Space.
"I think it's fantastic," he said of Redstone Arsenal. "The synergy and the assets that are all collocated here really complement each other so well. It's a great community, tremendous support."
After going through an extensive Base Realignment and Closure process, "I think we've landed in a good place," Westphal said.
The undersecretary said he sees more growth and more activity since his previous visit about a year ago. "I think it's a terrific, perfect place all the way around," he added.
Redstone's role in the nation's defense is "huge," according to Westphal. "What you have here are the elements necessary to lead us to the future."
Westphal, who became the 30th undersecretary of the Army on Sept. 21, 2009, has had a distinguished career of service in both academia and government.