Defence Secretary Chuck Hagel ‘to downsize US Army’

An entire class of Air Force attack jets is tipped to be axed under the plans, as Defence Secretary Chuck Hagel outlines his 2015 budget.

He is expected to propose trimming the active-duty Army to between 440,000 and 450,000 personnel.

The US military is under pressure to downsize after two costly foreign wars.

The number of active-duty US Army members is already expected to be pared down to 490,000, as the US prepares to end its combat role in Afghanistan later this year.

‘Tough choices’

“We have to face the realities of our time,” Pentagon press secretary Navy Rear Admiral John Kirby told the Associated Press news agency.

“We must be pragmatic, we can’t escape tough choices. He and the [military service] chiefs are willing to make those choices.”

The proposed Army staffing levels would be the lowest since before the US entered World War Two in 1940, when 267,000 active-duty members were employed.

By the end of that conflict, 8.2 million active-duty US Army members were employed.

The figure peaked at 1.6 million both during the Korean War, in 1952, and during the Vietnam War, in 1968.

The number was 482,000 in 2000, a year before the attacks of 11 September 2001.

After those attacks, the force peaked at 566,000 in 2010.

Benefits to be cut?

According to the Wall Street Journal, Mr Hagel will also recommend reducing housing allowances and other benefits, limiting pay raises and increasing healthcare premiums.

However, the military cost-cutting drive could well cause ructions on Capitol Hill, which is gearing up for November’s midterm elections.

The plan is said to take into account government cutbacks as well as US President Barack Obama’s pledge to end land wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

“You have to always keep your institution prepared, but you can’t carry a large land-war defence department when there is no large land war,” a senior Pentagon official told the New York Times.

Under the proposed cuts, the military would still be able to defeat any adversary, unnamed officials told that newspaper, but be too small to engage in protracted foreign occupations.

This month Army Chief of Staff General Ray Odierno said an Army force of 420,000 would be too small in a time of such uncertain national security.

“I’m on the record saying, as a minimum, I think our end strength needs to be around 450,000,” he said.

 

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