Noting that there's "no way around" budget cuts imposed by the sequester, Army Chief of Staff Gen. Ray Odierno said Tuesday that combat forces would be cut by 80,000 troops over the next five years, marking the largest U.S. military downsizing since World War II.
According to The New York Times,
the reduction in brigades at 10 bases across the country comes as the Army works to cut its active-duty force to 490,000, following the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
The Times reported that brigades are being cut from Fort Drum, N.Y.; Fort Campbell and Fort Knox in Kentucky; Fort Hood and Fort Bliss in Texas; Fort Bragg, N.C.; Fort Carson, Colo.; Fort Riley, Kan.; Fort Stewart, Ga.; and Joint Base Lewis-McChord in Washington.
The downsizing is a part of the Pentagon's response to the 2011 Budget Control Act, which resulted in this year's funding sequester. The sequester requires $487 billion in military spending cuts through 2021.
A brigade consists of 3,500 to 5,000 personnel, and the Army plans to cut its brigade combat teams from 45 to 33 by 2017. An additional two brigades in Germany are being eliminated this year. A third brigade combat troop, also overseas, will be eliminated as well, reports the Army Times.
Odierno said at a Pentagon briefing Tuesday that the remaining force would be "more lethal, flexible and agile," the Army Times reported.
The upcoming reductions, which Odierno said would occur primarily through attrition from retirements and voluntary separations, will be the fourth round of military budget cuts since President Barack Obama took office.
Odierno warned, however, that more cuts in officer personnel and other areas would be coming unless Congress moves to stop full implementation of the sequester.
House Armed Services Committee Chairman Howard "Buck" McKeon echoed the general's concern, saying in a statement they "don't begin to reflect the crippling damage sequestration will do to our armed forces and national security."
The California Republican called the troop cuts "only the tip of the iceberg; much deeper cuts are still to come."
Washington Rep. Adam Smith, a Democrat and the ranking committee member, agreed, adding in his statement that military readiness faces a "real hazard" as long as Congress does nothing to reverse the sequester.
"If sequestration is not removed, then more extensive force structure changes will need to be made," he said.
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