House and Senate conferees preserved language limiting the pace at which the Pentagon can reduce the active-duty end strength of the Army and Marine Corps in the conference report for the fiscal 2013 defense authorization bill despite opposition to the provision from the Obama administration.
The provision restricts the military from trimming the Army by more than 15,000 soldiers a year from FY 2014 through FY 2017, and the Marine Corps by more than 5,000 troops a year during that period. The White House had objected to the restrictions included in the House version of the legislation, claiming they would prevent DOD from carrying out its new defense strategy which emphasizes a smaller and leaner force.
The Statement of Administration Policy issued by the Office of Management and Budget last May also said that “the timing and pace of the planned reductions to the Army and Marine Corps are tied to anticipated changes in operational demand based on the nation’s current commitments.” Restricting cuts in the Army’s end strength would increase personnel and health care spending by more than $500 million in FY 2014 and a total of $1.9 billion through FY 2017, the statement added.
Conferees complied with one of the administration’s demands, however, by lifting a prohibition on using wartime funding to pay for end strength requirements. The conferees said they “remain concerned with the pace of the planned drawdown of the ground forces while the nation is still at war, as well as the impact of further defense budget reductions on personnel accounts,” according to their joint explanatory statement.
The House and the Senate adopted the conference report for H.R. 4310 late last month, sending it to the president’s desk for his signature. H. Rpt. 112-705, as well as the joint explanatory statement, is available on the House Rules Committee website.