The Washington metro region was largely spared in Army personnel cuts announced Thursday, with D.C.-area bases facing a combined net loss of 498 active-duty soldiers.
Beginning in October, the Army will begin cutting 40,000 soldiers, reducing the service’s end strength from 490,000 to 450,000 by the end of fiscal 2018.
Communities near those bases unfortunately will be affected, but “the Army has to operate within the budget provided,” the general said. “Part of doing that is restructuring and reorganizing to be able to accomplish the Army’s mission in the best manner possible.”
The Army will reduce to 475,000 troops by the end of fiscal 2016 — a number approved by Congress and the president in budget documents. The Army then plans to cut to 460,000 by the end of fiscal 2017 and to 450,000 by the end of fiscal 2018.
Virginia is slated to lose a total of 471 soldiers from three Army facilities: 250 at Fort Belvoir, 127 at Fort Lee and 94 at Fort Eustis, where an engineer diving team and a transportation detachment will be inactivated.
Maryland is set to lose 126 soldiers at the Aberdeen Proving Ground but gain 99 troops at Fort Meade.
Other states face larger Army staff cuts, particularly Georgia, Alaska and Texas.
The biggest proposed reductions are planned for Georgia’s Fort Benning (3,402 soldiers) and Alaska’s Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson (2,631 soldiers), as a brigade combat team downsizes to an infantry battalion task force at both installations. The reduction in Alaska will represent a 59 percent decrease in the active-duty Army population at the base.
Meanwhile, Texas’ Fort Hood is bracing to lose 3,350 troops and Fort Bliss 1,219 soldiers.
Sen. John McCain, Arizona Republican and chairman of the Senate Committee on Armed Services, said any rationale for the cut to 450,000 “has been overturned by the events of the last few years from the rise of [the Islamic State], Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, the Ebola crisis and more.”
Members of Congress initially balked at the cuts, noting the detrimental effect they would have in their home districts. Sen. Johnny Isakson, Georgia Republican, said Wednesday that he would hold up the president’s nominee for a new congressional liaison to the Department of Defense because he wasn’t given a “heads up” on the cuts.
The personnel cuts are expected to save about $7 billion over four years, Gen. George said.
When asked if the required cuts could be accomplished through attrition alone, Gen. George said the Army would “do as much as possible” through attrition, but also would be forced to kick out some good soldiers.
“I’ve had to look captains, majors, soldiers in the eyes — and good soldiers — and tell them that we’re reducing,” he said. “We do expect that will happen.”
If lawmakers allow additional sequestration cuts to go into effect in October, the Army will have to reduce its force even further to a point officials say will put the country at risk and prevent the military from meeting its security missions.
“Today’s announcement may not be the last,” Gen. George said. “Unless the provisions of the Budget Control Act are changed or reversed, the Army will have to cut an additional 30,000 soldiers by 2019.”
Mr. McCain said finding a bipartisan solution to undo sequestration cuts is still his top priority.
“If mindless sequestration cuts are allowed to return, the Army will shrink to 420,000 troops, increasing the risk that, in a crisis, we will have too few soldiers who could enter a fight without proper training or equipment,” Mr. McCain said.
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