Last week the Army announced its plan to further reduce force structure in 2016 and 2017 and cut troop strength by another 40,000 by 2018. The plan would also involve the reduction of 17,000 army civilian employees.
Force structure cuts “will best posture a smaller Army to meet global commitments,” according to a press release. These cuts will involve reductions in headquarters, cuts to brigade combat teams and enabler and generating forces, changes to operational force designs, and changes as a result of the Aviation Restructure Initiative.
Headquarters reductions will focus on headquarters commanded at the two-star and above level. The number of Army Brigade Combat Teams (BCTs), about 4,000 soldiers each, will drop to 30 in FY2017 down from a wartime high of 45. Two BCTs (Fort Benning, GA and Joint-Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Alaska) will convert into maneuver battalion task forces (about 1,050 soldiers each) by 2017.
Active Army troop strength will fall from 490,000 to 450,000 by the end of FY2018 (15,000 in FY2016, 15,000 in FY2017, and 10,000 in FY2018) under the plan. In FY2012, the Army’s active strength was 570,000. Previously, the Army had announced a cut of 80,000 from that level to be achieved in FY2017.
Although the Army’s plan will affect 30 installations, much of the Army’s troop strength cuts will be at six installations: Fort Benning, GA, -3,402; Fort Hood, TX, -3,350; Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, AK -2,631; Joint Base Lewis-McChord, WA -1,251; Schofield Barracks, HI -1,214; and Fort Bliss, TX -1,219
The previous 80,000 cut was to be achieved, for the most part, by eliminating temporary increases and reductions in Europe. To meet the additional 40,000 cut, the Army hopes to use attrition as much as possible, but will also use continuing officer and enlisted involuntary separations and early retirement boards.
The Army will also reduce civilian strength by 17,000 during FY2016 and FY2017. This reduction comes on top of 8,000 civilian cuts previously made. The Army hopes to achieve the 17,000 civilian reduction “through attrition and not filling currently unfilled positions.”
These decisions are being forced by ongoing budget constraints, according to Lt. Gen Joseph Anderson, Army Deputy Chief of Staff for operations and plans. “In the end, we had to make decisions based on a number of strategic factors, to include readiness impacts, mission command and cost,” he said.
However, if sequestration is not resolved before the automatic cuts go into effect in FY2016, the Army stresses that it could be forced to cut troop strength by another 30,000 (to 420,000) by the end of FY2019. This would produce a 26 percent reduction (-150,000) over seven years. If this should occur, the Army warns that the force “would be incapable of simultaneously meeting current deployment requirements and responding to the overseas contingency requirements of the combatant commands.”