Army Details How It Will Shrink to 450,000 Soldiers

PHOTO: Members of the U.S. Army 173rd Airborne Brigade practice during the combined Lithuanian-U.S. training exercise at the Gaiziunai Training Area west of the capital Vilnius, Tuesday, July 7, 2015. AP Photo
Members of the U.S. Army 173rd Airborne Brigade practice during the combined Lithuanian-U.S. training exercise at the Gaiziunai Training Area west of the capital Vilnius, Tuesday, July 7, 2015.

The Army announced Thursday how it plans to downsize to 450,000 soldiers, a move that will reduce its numbers by 40,000 soldiers and 17,000 Army civilian employees, through the end of 2018. The cuts are prompted by the Budget Control Act and changing strategic needs as the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have ended.

The Army’s recent budget planning had set 450,000 as a target goal, but it was unclear which units would be impacted the most by the planned force reduction.

The downsizing will begin in October with a reduction of 15,000 soldiers in fiscal year 2016, 15,000 in fiscal year 2017 and 10,000 in fiscal year 2018.

"These cuts will impact nearly every Army installation, both in the continental United States and overseas," said Brigadier General Randy George at a news conference detailing the force reductions. George, the director of Force for Army Operations, said the force reduction is the result of "a very long, thoughtful and deliberate process" over the past 18 months.

Unless Congress stops the automatic budget cuts known as sequestration cuts, the Army might be forced to downsize even further to 420,000 by 2019.

He echoed statements from General Ray Odierno, the Army Chief of Staff, and Secretary of the Army John McHugh that carrying out a further force reductions below 450,000 carries “significant risk” in the Army's ability to carry out its missions.

The force reduction will mean that since 2012, the Army will have downsized by 120,000 soldiers from a peak of 570,000 soldiers at the height of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

George said the goal is to reach the reduction targets “as much as possible” through attrition though involuntary separations and early retirements are likely. Army headquarters units will also be reduced in size by 25 percent.

Two Army brigades will become smaller battalion task forces, effectively reducing them in size from 4,000 soldiers to 1,000 soldiers. The first affected unit will be the 3rd Brigade, 3rd Infantry Division based at Fort Benning, Georgia. The other affected brigade will be the 4th Brigade, 25th Infantry Division, from Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson in Alaska.

In another change the 2nd Stryker Brigade, 25th Infantry Division, based in Hawaii will be converted to an infantry brigade, its Stryker vehicles will become part of a newly formed National Guard Stryker brigade for the west coast.

The brigade reorganizations will lead to a reduction of 7,500 soldiers. Another 23,000 soldier reductions will come from the full spectrum of Army units including: military police, signals, logistics, civil affairs, and headquarters units. Those reductions will occur at as many as 30 US Army bases stateside.

The planned reductions are expected to save the Army $7 billion over the next four years.