Army Eyes Even Deeper Troop Cuts

on January 27, 2012 at 12:28 PM

PENTAGON: While the Army is already poised to drop to its lowest total force since 9/11, the service also is mulling a slew of organizational changes that could shrink the force even more, the Army’s top uniformed officer said today.

The Army is studying what the “optimal size” of the service’s brigade combat teams should be once troops leave Southwest Asia, Army Chief of Staff Gen. Ray Odierno said today during a briefing with reporters. While it will be several months before the studies’ findings will be complete, Odierno said the results could spur another round of troop reductions. Odierno did not go into specifics on what criteria is guiding the Army’s BCT review. “We are an Army in transition,” the four-star general said. Studies like the BCT review will ensure the service retains “the right capacity and diversity” in its force, regardless of total numbers.

The Army is already staring down a 80,000-troop cut over the next five years, according to the Pentagon’s fiscal 2013 budget proposal unveiled yesterday. The service’s 480,000-man force will be “fundamentally different” in terms of the type of missions it does and how it goes about doing them, Odierno said. Changing the size and shape of the service’s BCTs will help prepare the service for that transition, even if it does mean more force cuts. That said, increases to the Army aviation and special operations forces will help offset potential reductions to the brigade combat teams, according to Odierno.

Army special operations forces are expected to grow to 35,000 over the service’s five-year spending plan, known as the Future Years Defense Program inside the Pentagon. Those troops will be heavily involved in service-led stability, counterinsurgency and counterterrorism operations across the globe, particularly in Africa and South America. This comes as the rest of the Army begins to move away from long-term counterinsurgency ops in Southwest Asia. That increased role of Army SOF will be supplemented by the service’s robust aviation portfolio.

Army aircraft and helicopters came out relatively unscathed during the Pentagon budget debate. However, service leaders did opt to slow down development on the Army’s next-generation aircraft, including the highly-anticipated Armed Aerial Scout program, according to Odierno. Ongoing modernization and upgrade work on the current Army fleet will continue, he added. That said, the current roster of Army aircraft, combined with the SOF increase, will provide the service the “capability to deter” any future threat the U.S. may face.