Under Secretary of the Army Joseph Westphal.

Under Secretary of the Army Joseph Westphal. Sarah Scully/GovExec.com

Army prepares for workforce cuts, but not sequestration specifically

Official says planning for the automatic reductions could be detrimental.

Army Undersecretary Joseph Westphal said Wednesday the service is not planning any contingencies for sequestration and warned the cuts would threaten the Army’s stability.

Speaking at an event the Government Executive Media Group hosted, Westphal said any systematic planning for sequestration -- automatic, governmentwide across-the-board cuts set to go into effect on Jan. 2, 2013 -- would create a “self-fulfilling prophecy” toward eliminating programs.

He added even if the cuts do not go into effect, there will be a reduction in the Army’s civilian workforce due to outstanding budget constraints and the personnel buildup that resulted from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

“Now that were going back to a more balanced force,” Westphal said, “were going to probably need to reduce our workforce.”

He highlighted attrition, reduction in redundancies and a cutback on contractors as ways to decrease the number of Army employees. 

The undersecretary discussed how the Army is modernizing and emphasized the need to train and educate its soldiers and civilian workers.

“I think we really have to focus on our people,” Westphal said. “They are our tool, they are our instrument, they are our weapons, they are our strength. I think the first thing we have to do as we transition to a smaller force and into a force of a future . . . is we have to invest in these individuals. We have to have the best educated army of any time, any place.”

Focusing on educating and training Army personnel will allow the service as a whole to be more adaptable and mission ready, he added.

Part of that adaptability, according to Westphal, requires coordination among all branches of the military and across government.

“We’re doing this in concert,” he said.

A smarter, slimmer and more integrated workforce, as well as a focus on long-term strategies, will help the Army prepare for any impending event.

“You can’t anticipate what a future president will require and what kind of situations will arise,” Westphal said. “You have to be ready for any eventual situation in the future.”

He added that things could be drastically different in the long term: “Maybe we’ll be like starship troopers fighting insects in space.”