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Troops: How low is too low for the Army?

Oct. 28, 2013 - 03:06PM   |  
2013 AUSA MWM 20131022
Army Chief of Staff Gen. Ray Odierno estimated that the service can meet the requirements of sequestration with an end strength of 420,000 or 425,000. (Mike Morones / Staff)
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If budget cuts and sequestration continue, which defense leaders and analysts say is a likely scenario, the service will be required to rebalance the force by decreasing end strength to as low as 420,000 in the active Army, 315,000 in the Army National Guard and 185,000 in the Reserve by fiscal 2023.

This will result in a 45 percent reduction in active Army brigade combat teams and organic equipment such as tanks, Bradleys, trucks, machine guns, mortars and artillery systems.

Some lawmakers and analysts are suggesting a cut to 380,000, but Army Chief of Staff Gen. Ray Odierno is digging in his heels.

“I am not in the 380 camp,” he said. “We do not need to go to 380. We can meet the requirements of full sequestration probably somewhere around 420, 425. And still have a modernized, ready force.

“People talk about what is the right capabilities you need for the future? Well, in some cases, capability is capacity. So it is a combination of capacity and technological modernization. I think that gives us the right balance if we have to go down and execute full sequestration.”

Fast cuts to end strength yield little savings because benefits have to be paid until the out years. That forces cuts to readiness and modernization to meet budget requirements.

Service leaders are looking to accelerate the drawdown to help free up some money. It would cut the service to 490,000 by fiscal 2015, two years early. And brigade reorganization is underway.

“If conditions are right, we’re going to accelerate it so we can buy back some readiness,” said Gen. Daniel B. Allyn, commander of Army Forces Command.

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