By Ed Lopez
Picatinny Public Affairs
PICATINNY ARSENAL, NJ -- The Army's civilian workforce is vital because of the continuity in expertise that it provides, but lack of precise data at the Army command level also makes it difficult to manage civilian manpower levels, Army Chief of Staff Ray Odierno told a gathering of Picatinny Arsenal employees during a visit May 30.
"As the military [personnel] comes and goes, we need our civilian workforce who are the experts in certain areas to sustain that over time," the general said.
"But I can't stand here and tell you that there is not going to be civilian reductions in the future. We're working our way through that now and what those are going to be."
A key challenge for the Army in managing civilian levels is knowing where to reduce manpower, Odierno said.
The Army can say it has 276,000 civilians, but at the overall Army command level civilians aren't tracked by position.
"We don't have it documented in such a way that we know where those civilians are," the general explained.
"It's only based on money," he continued. "What they do is they allocate a certain amount of dollars and some formula they use to say,
'Okay, you can buy these many civilians with this much money.'
"So it's very difficult to manage it and how we're going to reduce it."
Odierno said simply cutting civilians by taking dollars away from various commands can lead to mistakes.
"We're not sure, are those the right people we're taking out?"
Odierno said he is working to get a better handle on the civilian headcount.
"I am very focused on trying to come up with a system where we take out what we think are the right numbers in the right places, which will continue to allow people not only to keep the expertise we need at the proper levels, but also leave room for people to move up, which is the key to any good organization," Odierno said.
Odierno, who assumed duty as the 38th chief of staff of the U.S. Army in September 2011, previously served as Commander, United States Joint Forces Command.
A native of nearby Rockaway, N.J., Odierno graduated from Morris Hills High School where he played football.
As he began his talk to the workforce, later followed by questions, Odierno spoke of his longtime ties to Picatinny Arsenal.
"When I was a little boy, my mom and dad used to bring us up here for holidays, Memorial Day, Fourth of July-they used to have other events up here-and that was my first exposure to the Army.
"It's great to be back here. It's always great to come back home, especially here to Picatinny Arsenal," he said.
Odierno also described Picatinny Arsenal's critical role.
"I consider this to be a national treasure, what we have here at Picatinny Arsenal," he said. "I consider this to have a unique capability and capacity that we don't have anywhere else in the Army. And I'm very proud of that-that we have that right here."
Odierno noted that the Army must be prepared for the broad range of missions over the next 10 to 20 years.
"And that's where Picatinny comes in," Odierno said. "Here we have some of the brightest scientists, engineers, who I think can help us to continue to achieve technological advantages over our enemy. But we have to be very careful and discriminate about how we apply these new technologies because warfare is changing."
The general also said the Army would continue moving forward to make sure it can meet the nation's future needs.
In the current climate of budget constraints, the Army must carefully balance its resources to meet the challenges of a highly uncertain world and prepare for a broad spectrum of challenges in future years, he said.
Odierno said he seeks to balance end strength (number of Soldiers), readiness and modernization. If unbalanced, he said, there will be a hollow Army.
"We end up with an Army that doesn't have the equipment, the people and the dollars to spend on training and readiness."
In addition, the general said, "We're working very hard to ensure that we have affordable, timely, achievable modernization efforts."
The Army also seeks increasing buying power with better business deals and contracts along with increased compeititon.
"We need an affordable equipping strategy that is balanced over time," Odierno said.
Odierno said his role was, working with the Secretary of the Army, to maintain the right balance between military members, civilian employees and contractors.
"The civilian workforce continues to be key to everything that we do. It's essential. We can't do it without the civilian workforce. We have to find what that right balance is."
During his town hall meeting, Odierno recognized three Picatinny community members for their contributions: Ed Peterson, for his work to promote science, technology engineering and technology education; Lt. Col. John Thane, for his extensive outreach with the Boy Scouts, and Sue Elias, who organizes and oversees the New Jersey Fallen Service Member Tree Memorial Ceremony.
During the visit, Odierno also toured various facilities and received briefings on the various products and programs at Picatinny.
Among the group of visitors with Odierno were U.S. Rep. Rodney Frelinghuysen and Dale Ormond, director of the Research, Development and Engineering Command.