New York Times
June 26, 2013
WASHINGTON — Gen. Ray Odierno, the Army chief of staff, said Tuesday that the Army would institute the largest organizational change since World War II by eliminating combat forces from 10 bases across the United States, part of a planned reduction of 80,000 active-duty troops over the next five years.
The announcement supports the Army’s effort to downsize the active-duty force to 490,000 as the military winds down from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. The cuts were a result of the 2011 Budget Control Act that required $487 billion in military spending cuts over a decade. This is the fourth round of budget cuts for the military since President Obama took office.
Under the plan, the Army will cut its brigade combat teams to 33 from 45 by 2017 at bases in Colorado, Georgia, Kansas, Kentucky, New York, North Carolina, Texas and Washington State. A brigade is roughly 3,500 to 5,000 people. Two additional brigades in Germany, at Baumholder and Grafenwöhr, have already been scheduled for elimination this year.
General Odierno said the cutbacks are only a precursor to further action. “There is going to be another reduction,” he said at a Pentagon news conference. “There is no away around it.”
The across-the-board budget cuts known as sequestration, which calls for some $500 million in military spending reductions by 2022, could force the Army to speed up its current plans for cuts.
General Odierno said that most of the troop reductions will occur with natural attrition, but if “full sequestration occurs,” then the Army will have to cut more officers, including colonels, lieutenant colonels and captains.
The cuts are certain to be unpopular in the communities where the bases are a significant source of local jobs, although General Odierno said the Army had tried to minimize the damage. In the past year, the Army has conducted an extensive study on the economic impacts of the reductions and held community meetings across the country.
“I know in the local communities it will have its impact,” General Odierno said. But “we’ve tried to make it as small an impact as possible for as many communities as we could.”
The brigades will be cut from Fort Drum, N.Y.; Fort Campbell, Ky.; Fort Knox, Ky.; Fort Hood, Tex.; Fort Bliss, Tex.; Fort Bragg, N.C.; Fort Carson, Colo.; Fort Riley, Kan.; Fort Stewart, Ga.; and Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash.
Representative Howard P. McKeon, the California Republican who is chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, said that he would take a close look at the cuts. “As damaging as they are, these cuts don’t begin to reflect the crippling damage sequestration will do to our armed forces and national security,” he said in a statement. He added that “we all must understand that this is only the tip of the iceberg, much deeper cuts are still to come.”
Representative Adam Smith of Washington, the ranking Democrat on the Armed Services Committee, also warned about sequestration. “Given the drawdown in Afghanistan, the Army can manage this reduction in end strength,” he said in a statement. But, he said: “The real hazard to military effectiveness will persist as long as Congress fails to act on sequestration. If sequestration is not removed, then more extensive force structure changes will need to be made.”