FORT EUSTIS, Va. — Gen. Robert Cone, commanding general of U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command, hosted a town hall forum to share information directly with the TRADOC civilian workforce, Feb. 7, at Jacob’s Theater on Fort Eustis.
“I have learned during my time in the Army that communication is critical when you are going through a tough situation or are dealing with a lot of uncertainty,” Cone said. “I may not have all of the information you want at this time, but I want to make sure that we all have a shared view of the situation.”
The fiscal uncertainty for the Army’s budget is created by a one-two punch of operating under a continuing resolution with funding levels locked at the 2012 fiscal year rate, and the potential cuts, or sequestration, that are set to take effect March 1.
Cone told the standing-room only crowd of TRADOC civilians and their supervisors that the command’s potential share of the Army’s budget reductions is about 20 percent of the total budget for fiscal year 2013.
TRADOC is following the secretary of defense’s guidance to take immediate actions to reduce spending and conduct necessary planning in preparation for potential funding reductions.
Cone said he’s confident in the command’s plan to address potential shortfalls and thanked the teams led by Ellen Helmerson, TRADOC’s deputy chief of staff for personnel, and Matt Scully, TRADOC’s deputy chief of staff for resource management.
“We’re dealing with the finest personnel and budget people that I have ever seen, and I will tell you — I wouldn’t want anybody else running this operation,” Cone said. “You’ve got the right people at the helm in this regard.”
TRADOC’s commanding general also said he believes that the command’s proactive measures to cut costs such as limiting temporary duty travel, curtailing conferences and finding other efficiencies have helped to dampen the magnitude of potential budget cuts.
“Because of the great work you have done and the reputations you have in your organizations, our budget is actually smaller in 2013 than it was in 2001,” Cone said. “You have done a great job. A lot of the things we can do to save money have already been done. You have ‘paid the piper’ in the past, and while the projected cut is not good, it is better than what it could be.”
Within TRADOC, a large percentage of the budget is spent with contracts and personnel costs. Because contracting is such a significant percentage of TRADOC’s budget, the headquarters and its subordinate commands are reviewing contracts to find efficiencies or alternative ways of doing business.
Cone reiterated the need to protect what he believes is the “seed corn” for the future — the command’s nearly 19,600-strong civilian workforce — which includes temps, terms and permanent employees throughout the United States.
Cone cautioned that although current guidance is to not extend term employees past their appointments and release temp employees by Feb. 22, “some of the most innovative work in this command is being done by temps and terms.”
To that end, a deliberate review to validate mission-essential temp and term positions is being conducted across the command.
The furloughing of permanent civilian employees will be a tool of last resort, but is being considered as a potential measure to meet the Army’s fiscal requirements.
“For the last year and a half, we have been very disciplined in our personnel decisions,” Helmerson said. “We have made some innovative changes to try and protect our permanent workforce.”
After taking questions from the audience, TRADOC leaders emphasized that every effort to protect the workforce will be made and updates will be provided in a timely manner through senior leader engagements like this town hall.
The TRADOC Public Affairs Office will also post an information page soon to the TRADOC website, www.tradoc.army.mil, to provide information about potential impacts to TRADOC’s workforce.