In a move which belies the often-heard canard that it is slow to make decisions, the U.S. Army is moving out decisively to reduce overhead spending and protect as much as it can of the fighting force. In an August 14 memorandum to every major command and agency, the Secretary of the Army, the Honorable John McHugh, and the Chief of Staff, General Raymond Odierno, informed their service that they were directing the 2013 Focus Area Review Group to identify areas for major reductions in personnel and expenditures. In what can only be described as a shot across the bow to the institutional Army, the memo states:
“Let there be no mistake, aggregate reductions WILL TAKE PLACE. The money is gone; our mission now is to determine how best to allocate these cuts while maintaining readiness. We expect Army leaders, military and civilian, to seize this opportunity to re-shape our Army. This effort will take PRIORITY OVER ALL other Headquarters, Department of the Army activities.” (emphasis in original)
The tasking provided to the Review Group is another indication of the seriousness with which this effort is viewed and the determination of the Secretary and Chief not to let entrenched interests sidetrack the effort. The Review Group has only a month in which to report back with comprehensive recommendations. The memo directs that except in extraordinary circumstances, recommendations to conduct further studies or assessments are not acceptable. Also, to meet the tight deadline, to the extent practicable, the Review Group will rely on existing data, studies and reviews. In recognition of past efforts at cost reduction that achieved major savings by double counting cuts, there will be an integration cell to aggregate all the reductions.
One goal explicitly called out is to reduce Army Headquarters (both institutional and operational, at the 2-star and above levels) in the aggregate by 25 percent. The impacted organizations were given two weeks – that’s right, just two weeks — in which to present their plans to cut headquarters by the target amount in terms of both funding and manning.
This move has to rank up there with some of the boldest institutional reform efforts by great Army leaders of the past — individuals such as Marshall, Taylor, Abrams, Marsh, Vuono and Sullivan. Secretary McHugh and General Odierno deserve recognition and support for this bold effort.
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