AUSA: Daiquiris and drawdowns

Army leadership and defense industry officials will huddle at one of America's Spring Break destinations to talk force structure, acquisition reform and JLTVs.

Beltway traffic is tough enough to stomach in the spring and fall months. Mid-February is asking too much. Army leaders will dust off their clubs and pack their swim trunks for a week down in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., for the Association of the U.S. Army’s Winter Symposium.

Of course, there’s that drawdown and shrinking budget to ruin everyone’s rum buzz. The Army bore the brunt of this year’s budget cuts giving leadership plenty to talk about at this week’s pow wow that starts Wednesday.

Military.com will be in attendance providing updates throughout the week. Follow @_MichaelHoffman on Twitter for live coverage. Expect a wave of DoD Buzz updates from Fort Lauderdale as well as Orlando where Military.com has deployed Defense Tech editory John Reed to cover the Air Force Association’s winter meeting.

Restructuring the force will receive plenty of attention as the service plans to reduce its force by 80,000 soldiers. This week’s dialogue will revolve around just how the Army plans to shrink its force and who gets what.

Equipping the force will dominate the discussion Wednesday. A panel discussion on the massive reset facing the force highlights the morning’s agenda. Sure to be mentioned is Army Chief of Staff Gen. Ray Odierno’s testimony before Congress Friday stating the service will re-evaluate where the Army stations its prepositioned equipment with a renewed focus on the Pacific.

Army depots will be pushed even harder since Defense Secretary Leon Panetta chose to punt on many major modernization programs passing the buck to the next administration.  Delays won’t let the Army completely off the hook. The service chose to cancel the Humvee Recap and double down on the Joint Light Tactical Vehicle program.

Chief Army weapons buyer Heidi Shyu will speak Wednesday afternoon in her first public appearance since the budget release. Her comments on acquisition reform, the Ground Combat Vehicle program and the tactical wheeled vehicle modernization strategy will hold the defense industry’s attention.

More meat and potatoes training and doctrine talking points will rule Thursday morning when Gen. Bob Cone, head of U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command takes the stage.  It should be interesting to hear how the service plans to protect mid-grade officers and senior non-commissioned officers from getting swept into the drawdown while also maintaining enough command positions to advance these officers’ careers.

Expect plenty of back room discussions over who the drawdown will hit hardest.  The Army already announced it will retire two Germany-based infantry brigades with a total of 10,000 U.S. soldiers coming out of Europe.

What you won’t hear is much planning for the big bad sequestration. For all the talk on Capitol Hill last week about the “devastation” that would occur if sequestration is enacted, Army leadership remains confident it won’t occur.

Odierno closes out the conference on Friday allowing everyone plenty of time to hit the beach or the fairway before returning to the relatively mild winter in D.C. Before that, though, Odierno gets another shot to establish the direction he plans to take his Weight Watchers Army. After a decade of growth, Odierno has the challenge of leading a shrinking Army looking for a mission.