US Defence Secretary Chuck Hagel. REUTERS/LUKAS BARTH
The Pentagon said today it would slash the Army to
pre-World War Two levels, eliminate the popular A-10 aircraft
and reduce military benefits in order to meet 2015 spending
caps, setting up an election-year fight with Congress over
Defence Secretary Chuck Hagel, discussing the Pentagon's plan
for meeting its new spending caps ahead of the formal budget
presentation on March 4, advanced a number of ideas that have
been attempted in the past but rejected by Congress or are
likely to be unpopular in a congressional election year.
As the United States winds down the war in Afghanistan and
looks to cut billions in defence spending, the Pentagon plans
to continue shifting its focus to the Asia-Pacific and will
no longer need a land Army of the size currently planned,
The department plans to reduce the size of the Army to
between 440,000 and 450,000 soldiers, he said. The Army is
currently about 520,000 soldiers and had been planning to
draw down to about 490,000 in the coming year.
A reduction to 450,000 would be the Army's smallest size
since 1940 before the Second World War, when it had a
strength of 267,767 troops, according to Army figures. The
Army's previous post-Second World War low was 479,426 in
The planned cut in Army strength comes as the defence
Department is in the process of reducing projected spending
by nearly a trillion dollars over a 10-year period.
A two-year budget deal in Congress in December gave the
department some relief from the cuts, but still forced it to
reduce spending in the 2014 fiscal year by $30 billion.
The Pentagon's budget for the 2015 fiscal year is $496
billion, about the same as 2014 but still lower than had
envisioned last year.