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Barring a steeper drawdown that could be an outgrowth of sequestration, the Army is slated to reduce the size of the active component by 60,000 soldiers for an end strength of 490,000 in fiscal 2017.
The Army's personnel chief, Lt. Gen. Howard B. Bromberg, expects the Army will end fiscal 2013 on Sept. 30 with about 542,000 soldiers, or 8,000 fewer than were in the ranks on Oct. 1, 2012, the beginning of the fiscal year.
The 2013 Defense Authorization Act sets a manning window of no more than 552,000 and no fewer than 542,700 soldiers for the budget year that ends Sept. 30.
"This is something I watch every week, and as we have made improvements to the disability [evaluation] system, that has increased the number of soldiers who process through the system, which, in turn, will affect end strength," Bromberg said Jan. 31. "When that lower number of the 542,700 was set [by Congress], we did not know the full potential of what was possible with the changes to the disability evaluation system. We should easily be close to that number by the end of the year."
The authorization act also restricts the pace of the Army's force reduction to no more than 15,000 soldiers annually during the primary drawdown years of 2014 to 2017.
This provision of law not only supports the Army's strategy of conducting a steady, predictable drawdown, "but ensures that we can retain readiness," Bromberg said.
Despite the talk of severe budget cuts this year, Bromberg said his top priority as the Army G-1 is unit readiness, and getting the right number of soldiers in the right specialties to units on time.
"We don't want to forget that at this critical time, and that's easy to do in Washington when people start talking about budgets," he said. "Every day, I look at readiness."
Bromberg said that in terms of personnel programs and budget, "military pay is pretty much exempt from the cuts being discussed."
"For the very near-term, say over the next two months, I don't anticipate any major changes affecting soldiers," he said. "If there is full sequestration, there will have to be some major changes as we go into the next year.
"In terms of personnel programs, whatever we do will be done in concert with the other services," he added. "Dialogue on possible actions has just begun."