Pentagon likely to downsize US Army to pre-WW (II) level
Zee Media Bureau
Washington: The Pentagon will reportedly unveil plans to shrink the nation`s Army to its smallest size since after the World War (II), in a cost-cutting drive, a BBC report said on Monday.
An entire class of Air Force attack jets is tipped to be axed under plans, as Defence Secretary Chuck Hagel outlines his 2015 budget.
He is expected to propose trimming the active-duty Army to between 440,000 and 450,000 personnel, as per BBC.
The US military is under pressure to downsize after two costly foreign wars.
The number of active-duty US Army members is already expected to be pared down to 490,000, as the US prepares to end its combat role in Afghanistan later this year.
If approved by Congress, the move would reduce the army to its lowest levels since 1940, before the American military dramatically expanded after entering World War II.
The proposed 13 percent reduction in the army would be carried out by 2017, a senior defense official, who spoke on condition of anonymity.
The move comes amid growing fiscal pressures and after years of protracted counter-insurgency campaigns, which saw the Army reach a peak of more than 566,000 troops in 2010.
US troops have already withdrawn from Iraq and President Barack Obama has promised to end America`s combat role in Afghanistan by the end of this year.
The Pentagon had previously planned to downsize the ground force to about 490,000.
But Hagel warned that to adapt to future threats "the Army must accelerate the pace and increase the scale of its post-war drawdown."
He said the changes "would result in a smaller army, but would help ensure the army remains well-trained and clearly superior in arms and equipment."
Hagel also said the army national guard and reserves would be cut by five percent.
The smaller force would entail some "added risk" but it would still be able to defeat an adversary in one region while also "supporting" air and naval operations in another, he said.
His comments confirmed the Pentagon has abandoned the idea of ensuring the army could fight two major wars at the same time.
The proposed budget also calls for scrapping the Air Force`s entire fleet of A-10 "Warthog" aircraft and retiring the storied U-2 spy plane.
Instead, commanders have opted to invest more in the new F-35 fighter and the unmanned Global Hawk surveillance drone.
Hagel also called for slowing growth in pay and benefits, which make up nearly half the Pentagon`s budget.
Military spending doubled after the attacks of September 11, 2001 but has started to decline as lawmakers push to slash the government`s budget and debt.
Under a bipartisan accord adopted in December, the Defense Department will have a $496 billion budget for fiscal year 2015.
But the Pentagon has a "wish list" of $26 billion that would fund new weapons and bolster training programs.
Hagel warned that if automatic budget cuts resume in two years, the effects would be devastating and force more drastic reductions in manpower and equipment.
The full US federal budget will be presented officially on March 4.
With agency inputs
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