The U.S. Army is figuring out how to reduce its headquarters staff and other parts of the force by 25 percent amid another round of federal budget cuts.
Army Secretary John McHugh, the service's top civilian, and Army Chief of Staff Gen. Raymond Odierno, the service's highest-ranking officer, ordered a team to come up with recommendations by Sept. 11 for downsizing the force, from institutional and operational headquarters to Cyber Command, according to an internal memo first reported by Paul McLeary of Defense News.
"Let there be no mistake, aggregate reductions will take place," the document states. "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."
An Army spokesman at the Defense Department wasn't immediately able to verify the authenticity of the memo, which was dated Aug. 14 and posted on the trade publication's website.
Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel last month announced plans to cut 20 percent of some areas of the military bureaucracy in a move estimated to save as much as $2 billion.
Pentagon Press Secretary George Little said the reductions would affect the Office of the Secretary of Defense, the Joint Staff, and the Military Service Headquarters over a five-year period beginning in 2015. They will occur whether or not lawmakers agree on a plan to avoid automatic budget cuts known as sequestration, he said.
The Defense Department faces $500 billion in automatic cuts over the next decade. That's in addition to almost $500 billion in defense reductions already included in 2011 deficit-reduction legislation.
The first installment of the automatic cuts, totaling about $37 billion, began March 1 after lawmakers were unable to reach an alternative agreement on taxes and spending. The next round of across-the-board cuts is set to slice $52 billion from the defense budget in fiscal 2014, which begins Oct. 1, according to the Pentagon.
If Congress and the White House can't reach a deal to avert the decade-long reductions, the active Army would be forced to thin its ranks to as few as 380,000 soldiers, down from 552,000 soldiers today.
The Army has already made an initial set of reductions for the five years through fiscal 2019, according to the memo. Now, the so-called review group will help leaders "make specific decisions concerning the consolidation and reduction of organizations, programs and functions," it states.
The group will be headed by Thomas Hawley, a civilian, and Lt. Gen. Thomas Spoehr, a former deputy commanding general in Iraq who last month was promoted and named director of the Army's Office of Business Transformation.
It will initially have seven areas of focus: operational headquarters reductions, operational force structure and ramps, readiness, acquisition workforce, installation services and investments, and Army C3I (command, control, communications and intelligence) and cyber.
In the document, McHugh and Odierno acknowledge the challenging nature of the directive and the likelihood for infighting between and among the various organizations.
"The timeline for decision and action is short," the Army leaders wrote. "Not later than 11 September 2013, the Focus Area Review Group will provide us with a comprehensive set of recommendations. Given the difficulty of this task, we fully expect that Review Group recommendations are unlikely to reflect consensus. To the extent possible, each recommendation will include actionable options, distinguished by their effect on our Army and the cost savings associated with each."
The appendix of the memo appears to close with a warning against making use of accounting tricks.
"Movement of personnel outside of headquarters to subordinate units is not a legitimate means of achieving savings," it states. "Team should consider consolidation, reductions, and closing organizations."