`Budget cuts will mean smaller US military`

US defence budget cuts will require a "smaller" US ground force and "hard choices" about how to preserve American military power with less money, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said Tuesday.

Last Updated: Oct 12, 2011, 11:00 AM IST

Washington: US defence budget cuts will
require a "smaller" US ground force and "hard choices" about how to preserve American military power with less money,
Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said Tuesday.

In a speech looking at budget pressures facing the
Pentagon, Panetta said the US military would need to adjust its strategy and plan for a leaner, more agile force after massive ground wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

"We will have to look at force structure -- and the size
of the ground forces after Iraq and Afghanistan -- recognizing
that a smaller, highly capable and ready force is preferable
to a larger, hollow force," Panetta said at the Woodrow Wilson
Center in Washington.

But Panetta provided no details in his speech about how
much the ground force might have to be scaled back or what
modernization plans would have to be sacrificed.

He said any cutback in ground forces would have to be
"limited" and that the American military still had to be able
to fight more than one war -- a longstanding Pentagon
doctrine.

"While some limited reductions can take place, I must
be able to maintain a sufficient force to confront the
potential of having to fight in more than one area," he said.

The military faces about USD 450 billion in cuts over
the next decade as the US government tries to tackle a growing
deficit and debt.

The US Army is already bracing for downsizing plans.

Having expanded from 480,000 active soldiers in 2001
to 570,000 currently, Army numbers will probably fall below
520,000 after withdrawals from Iraq at the end of this year
and from Afghanistan in 2014, according to General Ray
Odierno, the army chief.

PTI