The Obama administration is taking another huge chunk out of the soldier force just a few months after Gen. Raymond Odierno, Army chief of staff, presented a carefully planned three-year drawdown that called for 50,000 more troops.
“In the end, the bottom line is, we want to make sure we sustain enough capability to deter,” he told reporters. “We want to make sure we sustain enough capability to be able to conduct our contingency operations.”
Of the 490,000 number, he said, “It’ll maintain that balance that I think we need in order to maintain an Army that can respond quickly, but also have the depth of response, if necessary, from the Guard and Reserve.”
How the Army, which just months ago said it needs 490,000 soldiers, can meet its commitments with 50,000 fewer will be the gist of budget hearings as several Republicans say President Obama’s budget cuts too much Army muscle.
Gen. Odierno had to eliminate 12 combat brigade teams, the Army’s basic fighting force, to go from 570,000 soldiers at the war’s peak to 490,000 by 2017. Another 50,000-soldier reduction as called for by Mr. Hagel could mean losing five more brigade teams or more.
The Army today has an active force of 520,000.
“While this smaller capacity entails some additional risk, even if execute extended or simultaneous ground operations our analysis showed that this force would be capable of decisively defeating aggression in one major combat theater, as it must be, while also defending the homeland and supporting air and naval forces engaged in another theater against an adversary,” the defense secretary said.