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Staff Sgt. Scott Kirchman, 128th Aviation Brigade instructor, demonstrates for Under Secretary of the Army Joseph W. Westphal, how they troubleshoot a fault on a Chinook helicopter at Fort Eustis, Aug. 7. The 128th Aviation Brigade is responsible for training service members on how to maintain a variety of different helicopters that are currently used. (Photo by Air Force Staff Sgt. Wesley Farnsworth)

FORT EUSTIS – Undersecretary of the Army Joseph W. Westphal visited Fort Eustis Aug. 7 to receive an update on U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command missions and speak with leaders about the future of the Army.

The undersecretary’s itinerary included a stop at the 128th Aviation Brigade where he observed aviation maintenance training, While there, he reflected on Army’s the fiscal environment, why there needs to be a change and how the Army plans to move forward with these new challenges.

“It is a serious challenge to all the services, not just the Army, to provide for a people-centric organization,” said Westphal. “We are working through myriad scenarios to reshape the force, find efficiency and look for ways to do things differently both as a joint force and certainly as an Army.”

Westphal expressed his confidence in TRADOC to move the Army in the right direction.

“We are reshaping the future of the Army, and this command is key to that,” said Westphal. “(TRADOC) is diligently working to shape the Army of the future. It is an intellectual challenge and it requires innovation and creativity; all of which they have here.”

More specifically, Westphal praised the efforts of Gen. Robert W. Cone, TRADOC’s commander.

“Having confidence in TRADOC’s work allows us to give them the flexibility and resources to do the creative thinking for us concerning requirements, leadership development and training,” said Westphal. “Those faculties then become the lynchpins for every other operation in the Army. Focusing resources in the right direction is what TRADOC will help us achieve.”

TRADOC and the Army budget are not the only things on Westphal’s mind, however. He spoke more on the effect of civilian furloughs, its ineffective nature and the problematic budget issues.

“We have always had an incredibly strong faith in our civilian work-force,” said Westphal. “This furlough situation is something very negative, and an ineffective way to deal with the future.”

Westphal followed with assurances that the Secretary of Defense noticed this shortfall and has put substantial efforts into finding a way to pull back from further furloughs. Westphal said measures have been taken to evenly disperse Department of Defense spending across the services.

“We are in the throes of a fiscal dilemma. There was a point where the Army was projected to run out of money by the end of the fiscal year due to our major contribution to the mission in Afghanistan,” said Westphal. “Thanks to the Secretary of Defense, Congress allowed us to redistribute defense spending more evenly to solve the problem.”

Regardless of Congress’s decision, Westphal still believes the number-one influence on stopping furloughs comes from each individual base.

“We went to all our commanders everywhere and said they need to do everything possible to shift as much to next year, which has given back a few days of furloughs,” said Westphal. “Our next job is to accept that (furloughs) are not the right tool, and to find other ways to solve the budget issue and not let this happen again.”

Westphal added that the president’s plans have extended the budget cuts over a longer period of time, which reduces the severity of the cuts each year and allows the natural rate of attrition for the Army to decrease the total force. Westphal hopes this means fewer furlough days or other negative responses from cropping up in the future.

Westphal concluded with sharing his appreciation for all civil servants, and his faith in the Army.

“Public service, uniformed or not, is an honorable profession, and I think we are blessed to have so many people who are willing to sacrifice by putting their life on the line and providing service to the American people,” said Westphal. “We have a tremendous tradition of great productivity, and I think we are going to rely more on TRADOC, our civilians and the rest of the total force to weather the effects of sequestration.”