Good luck with that troop cut, Army
So the Pentagon came out with its plan to trim the Black and Gold about 10 percent, from 490,000 to 450,000 within two years. Figuratively speaking, this takes the force below its pre-9/11 low of 479,426 (in 1999 at the height of the Clinton years), to its lowest spot since before WWII.
The meat of the cuts, which turn 3 brigades into 1 understrength one and 2 battalion task forces are as follows:
The Sledgehammers of 3rd Brigade Combat Team (BCT), 3rd Infantry Division, at Fort Benning, Georgia will shrink from a BCT to a battalion task force (go from 4,000 to 1,000 personnel). The Rock of the Marne was the go-to division that pulled off the “Thunder Run” into downtown Baghdad and took on the bulk of Saddam’s Republican Guard. However, the 3rd Team is weird as its the only unit of the division stationed outside of Fort Stewart, so in this case, the trim kinda makes sense (although its still going to be at Benning!) Still, with the Army making the case just weeks ago for wanting to be able to send heavies back to Europe fast and then cutting the very brigade that would help with that, is classic.
The Spartans of 4th BCT (Airborne), 25th Infantry Division, at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Alaska, will also shrink to a battalion task force, losing 4,000 to 1,000. This is a continuation of the apparent DOD withdrawal from the Great North, as some 4,721 military positions have been eliminated at JBLM since 2012. As 4/25 is a rapid deployment air-mobile force (two battalions of paratroopers, one of light cavalry squadron– the only one of its type on the West Coast) it would be one of the first moved to Korea or the Philippines if the balloon goes up there, this is confusing until you read the next step.
The Warriors of 2nd Stryker BCT, 25th Infantry Division, at Schofield Barracks, Hawaii, will transition from its 3 Stryker battalions back to being a 2-battalion “leg” light infantry unit, losing its armor and about 1, 200 personnel. This makes the unit much more rapidly deployable and the brigade never really could train properly with the 19-ton wheeled armored vehicle on the islands, anyway.
Speaking of given too heavy of equipment, the Washington state Army National Guard’s 81st Armored BCT, will give up its Bradleys and Abrams for the Hawaiian Strykers, a move they have been bugging the Pentagon for in the past several years as they contend the tracked heavies are too much for their local roads (like you use an Bradley for storm relief).
The rest of the cuts come in training and admin posts, spread at roughly about 5 percent for each Army base with some HQ units dropping by almost 25 percent (though few general’s positions are being trimmed). In addition there will be 17,000 Army civilians on the block which will surely lead to more contractors being brought in.
The thing is, the writing may be on the wall, but Congress has control of the chalk and eraser. Lawmakers are already feeling their panties twist around the lower half of their bodies and getting a case of heartburn as a result.
“People who believe the world is safer, that we can do with less defense spending and 40,000 fewer soldiers, will take this as good news. I am not one of those people,” Rep. Mac Thornberry, chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, said in a statement Wednesday.
Sen. John McCain, chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, called the Army’s plan a “dangerous consequence of budget-driven strategy.”
“With global instability only increasing, and with just 33 percent of the Army’s brigade combat teams ready for deployment and decisive operations, there is simply no strategic basis to cut Army force structure below the pre-9/11 level of 490,000,” McCain said.
After the Army announcement, Sen. Johnny Isakson, a Georgia Republican, shot back with a statement that he was “demanding answers” on the justification for the reductions in his state.
“I have talked in great detail with [Army] Secretary [John] McHugh today and will continue to fight to see to it that we preserve every soldier in Georgia that we can,” he said.
Republican Sen. Dan Sullivan said he was “extremely frustrated” that his state of Alaska is set to lose over 2,700 soldiers by 2017.
“Along with thousands of Alaskans, I find this decision devastating far beyond what it means to our state economy, but what it means to America’s defense,” Sullivan said.
Oh, and did we mention its an election year coming up? And that sequestration would drop the figure by another 30,000 Joes?
While yes, the next war will likely be either asymmetrical and run by spec-ops types and locals only, or an all out naval-air war that would have Tom Clancy chomping at the bit, and it either case three less brigades would likely not be needed, but hey, nobody asked me.
Either way, check back on these cuts in 2016…