Under Secretary of the U.S. Army visits USAREUR

June 2, 2013

By Sgt. Michael Reinsch, U.S. Army Europe Public Affairs


10th AAMDC deployment

Honorable Dr. Joseph W. Westphal (left), the Under Secretary of the U.S. Army, and Gen. John F. Campbell (right), Vice Chief of Staff pose for a photograph during their visit to Wiesbaden, Germany, June 1. Germany was the last stop in a visit that also took them to places like Italy and Afghanistan with the goal of emphasizing top-line Department of the Army messages and getting a ground-level view of the commands. Key subjects included: restructuring or reduction in the civilian work force, prevention of sexual assault and harassment, and sequestration. (Photo by Staff Sgt. Bernardo Fuller, photographer to the Under Secretary of the Army)

WIESBADEN, Germany – The Honorable Dr. Joseph W. Westphal, the Under Secretary of the U.S. Army, and Gen. John F. Campbell, Vice Chief of Staff, visited here, June 1, to talk about some of the big issues pressing in the Army today.

Germany was the last stop in a visit that also took them to places like Italy and Afghanistan with the goal of emphasizing top-line Department of the Army messages and getting a ground-level view of the commands. Key subjects included: restructuring or reduction in the civilian work force, prevention of sexual assault and harassment, and sequestration.

“It’s great to have an opportunity to talk to the leadership here on a range of issues with such an important command and such an important area for us,” Westphal, the second-highest ranking civilian official for the U.S. Army, said. “Traveling with the vice chief of staff, we had a chance to peruse most of the major issues.”

Although the focus of subjects changed slightly from command to command, the overall message stayed the same. Westphal, as well as the command in Washington D.C., is aware of challenges that face the Army today.

One major subject that receives media attention is the prevention of sexual assault and harassment within the ranks of the U.S. military. The Army has set up efforts to change its culture in an effort to reduce the rate of, and altogether stamp out, sexual assault and harassment.

“What I have seen over the last couple of months, on the part of our leadership at all levels, has been a full-fledged commitment to the eradication of this problem,” Westphal said. “Now we’re looking at all of the solutions. I think the Army, as it usually does when it sees a problem, it doesn’t waste any time; it launches into addressing it.

“Do we have all the answers? No. We are putting a ‘toolkit’ together, little by little, which I think will not only help the victims but also to rapidly and effectively get after any predator or any individual who thinks about abusing the privilege of serving their country, who won’t abide by the ethics and the integrity that this Army demands and this country demands.”

Budgets cuts are another major issue affecting everyone who works for the government. From hiring freezes and training restrictions to furloughs, budget cuts affect all members of the Army. Westphal expressed his concerns about the well-being of civilians, and explained why budget cuts are in place and how they are currently affecting the work-force.

“We find this the most wrenching and most difficult period that we have faced in a long time. Our civilians have been supporting our war fighters for the past 10 to 12 years, working hard, working long hours, sacrificing on the behalf of the American people and certainly on the behalf of our Soldiers and their families,” Westphal said. “They don’t deserve this. They deserve the respect of our leaders in Congress. The president, as well as the secretary of defense, has made it very clear that this is not an acceptable way to treat our workforce, and we are trying to do the best we can.”

The Army has had to use base operations funds to support the war effort and cannot move funds from one account to another, causing a budget shortfall, Westphal explained. The Army has requested permission to move funds, but Congress has not passed the requisite legislation.

Although there is little that can be done about the issues at the current time, Westphal emphasized leaders at all levels are concerned about the well-being of the civilian work-force affected by the shortfall, and are seeking solutions.

“We feel for the civilians who have been and who will potentially be furloughed, and for their families. We appreciate and are incredibly grateful for their service, and we will do the best we can to minimize this as much as possible,” Westphal said.

“We have a very experienced and highly talented workforce of civilians and military here, and we are paying a lot of attention to ensure the capacity of these great people is enhanced and promoted as we make any sort of change in the future,” he added.

The budget cuts affect the Army as a whole; from the Soldier at the lowest level to the highest levels of command, the Army has had to make adjustments that alter how it continues its missions.

One change that affects every command is force restructuring. This change in the dynamic has affected every major command at some level or another. For USAREUR, it’s no different; but the leadership in Washington are saying that the force structure is “about right.”

“We are going to continue to make adjustments in the force structure across the Army,” Westphal said. “It’s hard for us to predict just how it will all go because we have yet to see a budget approved by Congress. When we get an approved budget it will give us greater guidance to any other changes that we have to make. In the meantime, we believe we’ve got it right here.”

Although some units and garrisons are closing down or deactivating, Westphal still thinks that maintaining USAREUR is essential in building and maintaining partnerships in Europe.

“This is a very important region to our country and to our country’s security; these are our strongest partners and our partnership with NATO is long and enduring,” Westphal said. “Whatever changes we make, we have to be very cognizant of the critical importance that this region plays.”


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