Army officials are reviewing whether they need to launch a new comprehensive environmental analysis of the impacts associated with drops in the service’s end strength below the 490,000 active-duty soldiers it plans to have by fiscal 2015.
At the same time officials are evaluating whether further reductions in force structure will be needed, they will determine whether the assessment completed earlier this year for the initial set of changes can be used as the basis for the next set, Katherine Hammack, assistant secretary for installations, energy and environment, said Wednesday during a press briefing. Otherwise, the Army would need to conduct a new environmental study.
That review is still ongoing, she said.
In April, the Army wrapped up the Programmatic Environmental Assessment for Army 2020 Force Structure Realignment it prepared to support a decision to eliminate at least eight brigade combat teams (BCTs) and 80,000 soldiers from its end strength. That analysis evaluated impacts of potential adjustments to Army forces at 21 posts expected to experience a gain or loss exceeding 1,000 military personnel.
The Army ultimately settled on a plan in June to eliminate BCTs at 10 U.S. installations as it rebalances to a force of 490,000 personnel. The drawdown is a response to the initial $487 billion in defense cuts called for under the 2011 Budget Control Act, but doesn’t reflect additional reductions the service will be forced to make if Congress fails to reverse the sequester cuts slated to go into effect in the coming years.
Under that scenario, the Army will be forced to contemplate a further reduction in its end strength of between 40,000 and 70,000 soldiers. That conclusion was included in the Strategic Choices and Management Review released in July by Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel. Hagel described reducing the service’s size to between 420,000 and 450,000 active-duty soldiers as one option considered that would still allow the military to meet the current defense strategic guidance.
The earliest the department could begin to implement those changes in force structure would be FY 2015. Hagel also described more far-reaching cuts in ground forces that would be needed if up to $500 billion in spending reductions are triggered under sequestration. Under one alternative, the active Army would shrink to between 380,000 to 450,000 troops, the secretary said.