The pressure of long-term budget constraints is forcing Army officials to consider difficult tradeoffs as they try to balance force structure, readiness and modernization, with a decision to shrink the service’s active-duty force to 420,000 one distinct possibility.
“We’re on a glide path, and the monies are laid out to give us a 420,000 Army by 2019,” Lt. Gen. James Barclay III, the Army’s deputy chief of staff, G-8, told attendees at the Association of the U.S. Army’s Aviation Symposium & Exposition last week.
“That doesn’t mean we’re set on going to 420, we’ve got some decision points built in, coming into the ’16, ’17 timeframe, so we’re taking a hard look at what is the right set,” Barclay said, reported the Army News Service.
The Army now has about 564,000 soldiers on active duty, but that number is mandated to drop to 490,000 by 2015. The number of brigade combat teams is slated to decline from 45 to 32.
“The bottom line of all this is that over the next five years, the Army is going to have a significant challenge to be able to balance our end-strength, our modernization, and then maintain the readiness of the force we keep,” he said. A decision to bring the end strength down to 450,000 would increase the risk that the Army would not be able to carry out all of its required missions.
Balance among the three components would probably not be achieved until the 2020 to 2022 timeframe, according to Barclay.
“By then, we’ll have the decisions on what the final end strengths will be, where we’re going and a clearer picture of really, truly what kind of equipment sets, amounts and quantities will be required and then we’ll also know how much money we’ll have left to put into the readiness piece of that,” he concluded.