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Army leaders promise not to cut family programs

WASHINGTON — Army leaders promised to leave family support programs intact when looking for ways to trim the service’s massive budget.

“We want to ensure that the family programs we’re operating are run well and efficiently and if we need to make adjustments so they can be more so, that’s fine,” said Secretary of the Army John McHugh. “But what we won’t do particularly as a first reaction, is look to those programs as a source of budgetary savings.”

During the opening presentation at the Association of the U.S. Army’s meeting in Washington, D.C., McHugh discussed the Army’s challenge of operating in a constrained budget environment as well as efforts to modernize the Army. He and Chief of Staff of the Army George W. Casey Jr. went into more detail during a press conference following that ceremony.

In regard to a challenge by Secretary of Defense Robert Gates to the military services to find ways to trim some $100 billion from the defense budget over the next five years, the Army’s two senior leaders said they won't look to family support programs — which they say are important to supporting the all-volunteer force — but will instead look to things like restructuring commands and doing “portfolio reviews” of Army capabilities.

“A lot of what we’re finding is coming out of capability portfolio reviews and it’s basically redundant programs or nonperforming programs,” said Casey, also adding the Army is looking at force structures.

“We’re asking ourselves, for example, do we still need a four-star general in Army Europe and what should a support force structure in Europe look like? I suspect we’ll be able to garner some significant military and civilian savings at those headquarters.”

Those portfolio reviews, said McHugh, “already show great promise in bringing better discipline to our programs — better evaluating and realigning our requirements with the reality of today and where we think tomorrow is going.”

The secretary said a task force is will provide a report within 90 days, though he is getting updates on their progress. He said a good budget policy starts with people.

“We can’t have an Army without people,” he said. “All our efforts must start with them, with training and education — the things that create our greatest hedge against future threats. That hedge: adaptive, innovative, thinking enlisted Soldiers, officers and NCOs — folks who will make a difference.”