The Army stands to lose 18,200 soldiers in the drawdown plan for 2015, through attrition and reduced accessions, but also with retention screening boards that may lead to soldiers being forced out.
Chief of Staff Gen. Ray Odierno said involuntary separation actions will be targeted at the various officer and noncommissioned officer ranks "to keep the force in balance," and to compensate for the additional soldiers who were brought into service during the manpower buildup for the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.
"Now that we are reducing the Army, we have got to bring (those levels) back down, and we are going to continue to make decisions to do that," said the chief during a September interview at his Pentagon office.
"My guess is that as we continue to draw the force down, we will have to do (selective release) boards every year through 2019," he said.
However, Odierno said that in the case of officers, the Army would not screen year groups more than once.
The mid-career Army Competitive Category officer cohorts given a one-time screening for separation and early retirement in the spring of 2014 included majors in year groups 1999 through 2003, and captains in year groups 2006 through 2008.
As a result of those boards, 550 majors and 1,144 captains have left, or soon will be leaving, active duty.
A similar screening is tentatively scheduled for captains this September, according to senior Pentagon officials. However, the Army has not announced the board details, such as the convening date and zones of eligibility.
Last year the Army also screened several hundred senior field-grade officers for retention, which resulted in the involuntary early retirement of 103 colonels and 136 lieutenant colonels.
A new round of Selective Early Retirement Boards met in November to consider ACC colonels with dates of rank of Aug. 2, 2008, through Nov. 12, 2010, and lieutenant colonels who have been passed over two or more times for colonel.
The results of that screening are pending approval by the secretary of the Army.
A similar force reduction procedure, called the Qualitative Service Program, also was used last year to identify nearly 1,000 soldiers for separation and early retirement.
QSP boards, which operate in conjunction with senior NCO promotion boards, will be used again in 2015 to cull the ranks of military occupational specialties that are over-strength, or that have limited promotion opportunity, or both.
The first of the 2015 QSP boards will meet Feb. 10-March 6 in conjunction with annual Regular Army and Active Guard and Reserve (Army Reserve) master sergeant board.
Other QSP boards in 2015:
- The sergeant first class promotion board that meets June 2-July 2 will screen staff sergeants for retention.
- The nominative command sergeant major and key billet sergeant major board that meets June 15-19 will screen command sergeants major and sergeants major for retention.
- The sergeant major training and selection board that meets Sept. 9-25 will screen master sergeants and first sergeants for retention.
The Army ended fiscal 2014 on Sept. 30 with 508,000 soldiers manning the active component.
That total represents a whopping 62,000-soldier end-strength cut since the drawdown began three years ago.
Initially the Army was poised to end the cuts at 490,000 in 2018, but sequestration and related budgetary pressures have moved up that target to Sept. 30, 2015, while taking an additional cut of 40,000 in 2016 and 2017. A worst-case scenario envisions follow-on cuts of 10,000 to 20,000 by the end of the decade.