Army mobilizing to do more with less

October 28, 2012

Occasionally, we republish blog posts, speech transcripts and other commentaries of interest to the Washington business community. Here are excerpts from Secretary of the Army John M. McHugh’s remarks during the opening ceremony of the Association of the U.S. Army conference in Washington last week.

The Association of the U.S. Army provides a critically important forum for the Army, a forum to share ideas, discuss critical issues that impact our future. And it gives us an important chance to spend some time listening — listening and learning, not just from one another, not just from those within our ranks, but from those outside the Army who also know and care about us and have ideas and opinions that they wish to share to make us better.

Now, you’ll notice as you navigate the displays this year that the Army footprint is somewhat smaller. But while our footprint will be smaller, we are here and we’ve found ways to have people participate who matter. We found ways to have even more people tele-participate, if I could coin a phrase. Now, there’s no question that forums and conferences in this town are rightfully under a lot of scrutiny. That’s understandable. But often, the good gets mixed in with the not-so-good. The valuable sometimes mixed in with the less so.

There’s a larger lesson here. Our reduced physical presence mandated by an imperative to find ways to do more with less is really a microcosm. It’s a microcosm of a larger challenge.

The reality is that after more than 11 years of war, leaving one theater and now preparing to draw down in another, the Army is going to have to do its job with less. This isn’t something that was simply driven on our doorstep, something put upon us by sudden fluctuations in the stock market. The truth is we’ve seen this day coming for some time. Most importantly, we’ve been given the opportunity and the time to get it right, to plan, to prioritize, and adjust force structure, equipment and training, and we’re doing it.

Last year, I used this forum to announce the creation of the Institutional Army Task Force. I said, at that time, their mission wasn’t just to help us do more with less, they were tasked to apply proven, workable creative solutions to help us do better, and do it with less.

Also, last year, I announced we initiated steps to streamline how we did service contracts, contracts that account for 21 cents of every dollar the Army spends. As a result, we created a single focal point at each command and staff element, consolidated requirements generation, and align subject matter experts.

Where we once had some 260,000 actions awarded by 225 different offices, carried out by thousands of different people, we now have six portfolio management centers, consolidating nearly half of all service obligations. In this past year, that effort netted us more than $330 million in savings.

And I tell you, I think that’s good. That’s very good.

But we have more we can and will do.

From headquarters realignment to human capital management, we’re continuing a top to bottom review that will make our entire Army smarter and more cost efficient. And these are critically important measures. Measures that’ll streamline our structure, improve our effectiveness, and make us organizationally better.

But this is the Army. We don’t succeed simply through bureaucracy. We don’t prevail only through wise spending, as important as those things are. The heart and soul of America’s Army is today what it as on the battlefields of the American Revolution, it is our people.

And what keeps me up at night, honestly more than anything else, are not the numbers on a ledger, not by a long shot. What keeps me up is wondering whether the service and sacrifice of the American soldier is not only appreciated, but really understood and understood at its core.

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