Washington plans to cut army size by 13 percent

February 25, 2014 - 12:21:49 am
WASHINGTON: The Pentagon plans to scale back the US Army by more than an eighth to its lowest level since before World War II, as it hopes for an end to 13 years of war in Afghanistan.

Defence Secretary Chuck Hagel recommended shrinking US forces from 520,000 active duty troops to between 440,000 and 450,000.

In a speech outlining the proposed defence budget yesterday, he said that after Iraq and Afghanistan, military leaders no longer plan to “conduct long and large stability operations.”

If approved by Congress, the move would reduce the army to its lowest levels since 1940, before the American military dramatically expanded after entering World War II.

The proposed 13 percent reduction in the army would be carried out by 2017, a senior defence official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, told AFP.

The move comes amid growing fiscal pressures and after years of protracted counter-insurgency campaigns, which saw the Army reach a peak of more than 566,000 troops in 2010.

US troops have already withdrawn from Iraq and President Barack Obama has promised to end America’s combat role in Afghanistan by the end of this year. The Pentagon had previously planned to downsize the ground force to about 490,000.

But Hagel warned that to adapt to future threats “the Army must accelerate the pace and increase the scale of its post-war drawdown.”

He said the changes “would result in a smaller army, but would help ensure the army remains well-trained and clearly superior in arms and equipment.”

Hagel also said the army national guard and reserves would be cut by five percent.

The smaller force would entail some “added risk” but it would still be able to defeat an adversary in one region while also “supporting” air and naval operations in another, he said. His comments confirmed the Pentagon has abandoned the idea of ensuring the army could fight two major wars at the same time. AFP