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Army memo: Soldiers to replace contractors for dining, security services

Leaders target civilian contractor services to save money, keep soldiers busy

Oct. 16, 2013 - 06:00AM   |  
The Army will replace civilian contractors providing dining services and guard duty, according to a memo. Pictured: Soldiers grab a meal at a dining facility on JBLM Lewis North in 2010.
The Army will replace civilian contractors providing dining services and guard duty, according to a memo. Pictured: Soldiers grab a meal at a dining facility on JBLM Lewis North in 2010. (Ingrid Barrentine / Army)
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Now that the Army’s training funds are scarce and soldiers have little to do outside the war zone, Army leaders are planning to put thousands to work in dining halls and as security guards.

Army leaders have approved a plan to put soldiers in base operation roles in place of contractors for up to 18 months, according to a memo signed by Army Secretary John McHugh and obtained by Army Times.

In the memo, McHugh seeks an exception to policy to assign soldiers or units to work temporarily in “mission critical” roles “both inside and/or outside their military occupational specialties,” according to the memo to the acting undersecretary of defense.

But at least one Army official disagrees with the plan.

“Non-concur!! Not an appropriate function for soldiers,” reads a note apparently from Army Undersecretary Joseph Westphal in an attached document.

About 6,000 soldiers “regardless of MOS” will be called on for installation support duties, according to an information paper, but a source told Army Times the total could be 14,000 soldiers if the assignments are for six months, and potentially 28,000 soldiers if those duties are for three months. The source spoke on condition of anonymity.

The soldiers would be post-initial training in grades of E-1 to E-5.

The duties would include “manning dining facilities” at permanent stateside posts and overseas training installations and “performing security guard duties” at many stateside posts.

The Army anticipates tackling two issues with the plan: soldiers with less to do, and money drying up for contractors.

Funding cuts due to sequestration mean “reductions are likely to target missions currently performed by civilian employees and service contractors,” states the information paper attributed to Gwendolyn DeFilippi, deputy assistant secretary of the Army, Force Management, Manpower and Resources. “There will be a shortage of training funds and so the majority of soldiers will be trained only to squad and platoon level tasks.”

“Reduced funding will not support collective training and until Army can align the force structure and the end strength (likely two or more years into the future), soldiers will be available to perform base operation functions.”

The need for soldiers to be assigned temporarily to these roles is “paramount,” McHugh says in his memo.

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