The Army will cut 40,000 troops from its ranks by 2017 as part of a new round of reductions brought on by constraints in the federal budget, the Army’s director of force management said Thursday.
“Unfortunately under sequestration under sequestration and automatic budget cuts, today’s announcement may not be the last,” Brigadier General Randy George told reporters about the current fiscal environment that will reduce the Army’s ranks from its current state of 490,000 soldiers to 450,000.
If automatic budget cuts known as sequestration take place later this year, the Army says it would have to likely reduce its ranks by an additional 30,000 soldiers beyond the numbers announced Thursday, potentially crippling its ability to fight.
“The resulting force would be incapable of simultaneously meeting current deployment requirements, and responding to overseas contingency requirements of the combatant commands,” George said.
Reductions would affect nearly every installation in the force and will also include cutting approximately 17,000 civilian employees from the Army’s payroll. Many of the civilian cuts will come through the 25 percent cut across all of the Army headquarters, though the force does not expect to have greater specificity on those cuts for an additional sixty to ninety days.
And while the Army says some of the reductions will come through attrition and planned retirements, there will be many forced separations as part of the cuts.
“I have had to look captains, majors, soldiers in the eyes, good soldiers, and tell them that we are reducing,” George said. “Those are tough things to do.”
The largest single unit cuts will impact installations like Fort Benning in Georgia, Fort Hood in Texas and Joint Base Elmendorf in Alaska. Brigade Combat Team units at both Fort Benning and Joint Base Elmendorf which each currently number approximately 4,000 would be reduced to infantry battalion task forces numbering just over one thousand in each unit.
There will also be cuts to enabler forces like logistics, signal corps and military police units across the entire Army.
Some analysts who follow the Defense Department say such cuts make sense in a new era where the United States is no longer fighting two large land wars, but point to looming difficulties for the communities that host Army bases.
“It’s hard to justify the force size we had at the peak of Iraq and Afghanistan given the deployments and commitments that we have today,” said Todd Harrison with the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments. “When you cut four or five thousand people from a particular base, that also means there’s going need to be fewer people working at the grocery stores, fewer teachers at the school, and so the economic impacts will expand out from the base.”
Following a “long, thoughtful, deliberate” process over the last 18 months, George said the reductions will take into account the current demands of the force around the world in order to maintain a force structure that can also take into account any unknown contingencies around the globe.
Confronted by budget cuts in an uncertain fiscal environment, the Obama administration has looked for ways to cut the size of the military, at one time pledging to scale the Army back to its lowest troop level since before World War II.
With a peak force of 570,000 troops following the 9/11 attacks, the resulting 450,000 troops will represent a drop of 120,000 troops since 2012 or 21 percent of the force.
CNN’s Barbara Starr and Ross Levitt contributed to this report.