The Army has a new weapons wizard. He’s a guy who specializes in bringing advanced communications and computer technologies to the battlefield. He’s got a master’s degree in electrical engineering. He’s had a career in government research and development since 1983. Dr. Gerardo Melendez will be sheparding a staff of about 3,600 scientists and engineers at the service’s Armaments Research, Development and Engineering Command. Among other things, it will be up to him to ensure the smooth deployment of the Army’s new XM-25 weapon as well as the continued development of specialized ammunition. Melendez will also have to help manage what could be a massive internal war within the Army. There’s been this battle between different constituencies over how, or whether, to improve or replace the M4/M16 and its Stoner design. We hear that like the Corps’ battle over the M-16A4 and the M-4 a few years back, many stakeholders within the Army are digging in their heels over which path to take. And it will fall on Melendez to both contribute to that debate and manage its outcome.
Army contractors are hoping they’re not among those that commanders may recommend for a discharge. Army commanders have been told to list all contractors who serve them, rank them in order of usefulness, and name the ones who can be let go. Army Undersecretary Joseph Westphal sent out a memo earlier this month that also lays out 14 other tasks meant to boost efficiency. It lists the savings that various commands are expected to produce between 2012 and 2016. As we’ve reported, Secretary Gates has laid out details of his plan to save $100 billion over the next five years by reducing overhead, and generally instilling a culture of restraint. One particular heads up: Westphal is asking commanders to list those contractors who “augment” their organizations’ staffs. By that, he apparently means staff that is doing work that is inherently governmental, closely associated with inherently governmental work, or involves unauthorized personal services. Undersecretary Westphal says he wants the lists completed by October 4.