U.S. Army Chief of Staff Ray Odierno said Friday the Army will struggle to maintain its global commitments in the long run as troop numbers shrink while the U.S. continues to engage heavily in foreign conflicts.
Gen. Ordierno said decisions about cutting the size of the force from 570,000 to the current 490,000 were made several years ago when the Pentagon expected a peaceful Europe, a declining commitment in Afghanistan and no return in Iraq, Reuters reported.
Instead, the Army is regularly using three brigades in eastern Europe to combat Russian rebels in Ukraine and another three brigades in Afghanistan, a brigade in Iraq, one in Kuwait and another brigade will rotate to South Korea, Gen. Ordierno said.
“These are all pretty significant requirements. If they do not reduce, it will be hard for us to maintain that over a long period of time,” he said, Reuters reported.
Gen. Odierno, who is set to leave office in a few weeks, added that insecurity in eastern Europe and the fight against Islamic State militants in Iraq and Syria were both long-term commitments.
He said defeating Islamic State militants could take 10 to 20 years and warned the Army may not be able to sustain the pace without some relief in budget cuts or the breadth of commitments, Reuters reported.
“At some point we’re going to have to say what we’re not going to do because we’re not going to be able to do everything we’re being asked to do right now,” Gen. Odierno said, Reuters reported.
He reiterated his previous warnings that the Army would have to cut back to 450,000 troops under the current budgetary restrictions.
The Pentagon is currently trying to accommodate nearly $1 trillion in projected budget cuts over the next decade, which were ordered as part of the Budget Control Act passed in 2011.