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Army faces troop reduction amid budget cuts

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The Army faces a $18 billion shortfall this fiscal year that will delay training for soldiers deploying to Afghanistan in 2014, the Army's chief of staff said Tuesday.

The shortfall also could force the Army to cut 40 percent of its Brigade Combat Teams and as many as 100,000 active duty and reserve soldiers, Army Gen. Raymond Odierno said after a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing.

Under automatic spending cuts set to begin March 1, soldiers readying to go to Afghanistan would "fall behind" in training, which would delay their deployment until mid- or late 2014, Gen. Odierno said.

"I know what is required to send soldiers into combat. And I've seen firsthand the consequences when they are sent unprepared," he told the committee.

"I began my career in a hollow Army. I do not want to end my career in a hollow Army," said Gen. Odierno, who began his service in 1976.

The Pentagon is operating under a continuing resolution that holds military spending to 2012 levels. Automatic spending cuts set to begin March 1 would require the Pentagon to cut at least $42 billion from its budget by Sept. 30 and as much as $500 billion from its 10-year spending plan.

Already, the Army is laying off 3,100 employees, imposing a hiring freeze and planning to furlough up to 251,000 civilians for one day a week for 22 weeks.

The Army is planning to cancel third and fourth quarter vehicle maintenance, which will result in laying off 5,000 employees.

Gen. Odierno said there also will be a significant delay in equipment readiness for six divisions and an estimated $3.36 billion impact to the communities surrounding the bases affected by the cuts.

Educational courses, training and certifications also will be curtailed, he said.

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