The Defense Department may have to force soldiers, Marines or other members of the military out of the services for the first time since the aftermath of the Cold War to achieve the spending reductions in its budget proposal.

The Pentagon plans to cut 67,100 soldiers from active and reserve Army units and the Army National Guard in the five years starting Oct. 1, as well as 15,200 from the active and reserve ranks of the Marine Corps as part of an effort to save $487 billion over a decade, according to the budget sent to Congress today. The Navy and Air Force would lose fewer people — 8,600 and 1,700 respectively — because of their role in a strategic shift toward the Asia-Pacific region and the Middle East.

The military will first try buying out contracts or offering bonuses for people to leave, while working to keep those with valuable specialties such as cyber warfare and acquisitions, according to Travis Sharp, a fellow at the Center for a New American Security, a Washington policy group, who attended a Pentagon briefing for analysts last month.

“I was surprised that they were going to complete the reductions to the Army and the Marine Corps in just five years,” Sharp said in an interview before the budget was released. “What they told us is that they will try to use those types of positive incentives to the greatest extent possible, but that involuntary separations would probably still be necessary.”

The Pentagon has said it is aiming to a create a smaller, more agile military. Special operations forces, whose commandos killed Osama bin Laden last year, would be expanded.

Republican Opposition

Republicans in Congress already have signaled they will challenge the Pentagon reductions when lawmakers take up the proposed fiscal 2013 budget that President Barack Obama sent to Congress today.

Representative Howard “Buck” McKeon, the Republican chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, cited a comment by White House Chief of Staff Jack Lew in an interview on NBC’s “Meet the Press” that “the time for austerity is not today.”

“They’ll have a tough time explaining that to the 100,000 troops who will be forced from service under the president’s new budget plan,” McKeon of California said today in a statement.

The cuts, spurred in part by plans to wind down the war in Afghanistan in the next three years, would mark the first time the U.S. military has forced personnel out of the services since the larger troop reduction after the end of the Cold War with the Soviet Union.

Service Options

The military services, which decide how to achieve the cuts, may be able to tighten re-enlistment standards and offer incentives to leave, Defense Department Comptroller Robert Hale said.

“I don’t think we can stand here and say there won’t be any involuntary separation,” Hale told reporters at the Pentagon today. “We have very high retention right now with the economy still fairly weak. If that changes, it will be easier. If it doesn’t, it will be harder.”

The department will seek to “do this in as humane a way as we can,” Hale said.

The prospect of cutting the U.S. military to about 2.15 million people by October 2017, a reduction of 92,600 starting next year, creates political risks for Obama in an election year, and economic risks as military personnel enter the civilian workforce in coming years, Sharp said. Including reductions in the current year, the plan would eliminate 123,900 positions from all the branches.

‘Kicking People Out’

“You are kicking people out of the military at a time when unemployment is not only a major challenge, it is also a primary factor in the upcoming presidential election,” Sharp said. “They will have to start the machinery and the process of implementing these drawdowns this year.”

The reductions would start with 31,300 uniformed positions, or 1.4 percent, eliminated in the 12 months starting Oct. 1, cutting the force size to 2,238,400 from 2,269,700 this year, according to the proposal.

After the Cold War, the military pared its active-duty ranks by 494,000 from 1991 to 1995, according to the Defense Department comptroller’s office. That included 216,000 from the Army and 21,000 from the Marine Corps. Further cuts followed in the next few years, ending just before the Sept. 11 terror attacks by al-Qaeda.

Junior Officers

The Army forced more than 5,300 out of its officer ranks alone in the five years ended Sept. 30, 1997, according to a report published in October 2000 by a researcher at the U.S. Army War College’s Strategic Studies Institute. The study found forced exits also contributed to attrition in the ranks of younger officers.

“With junior officers witnessing such an array of policies designed to entice or force over 23,000 of their peers and role models to leave, it is not surprising that their loyalty to the military has been redefined with a healthy dose of skepticism,” the researcher, Leonard Wong, wrote in the report.

The Army’s budget director, Major General Phillip McGhee, told reporters at the Pentagon today that his service will rely first on on-time and early retirements, reducing recruitment and other steps before resorting to involuntary measures.

“We really want to put minimum stress on the force as we do the rampdown,” McGhee said.

Protracted Conflicts

In addition to focusing more national security attention on Asia and the Middle East, the Pentagon’s revised strategy outlined last month sets aside previous assumptions that the military plan for large and protracted conflicts such as Iraq and Afghanistan.

The cuts in uniformed personnel are in keeping with proposed steps such as eliminating eight Army brigades, five Marine infantry battalions and four of the Corps’s tactical air squadrons. The Air Force would lose 303 aircraft and six fighter squadrons, while the Navy jettisons seven cruisers and 2 dock landing ships.

“In preparing this budget, we endeavored to avoid the mistakes of previous drawdowns that attempted to maintain more force structure than the budget could afford,” the department wrote in a Jan. 26 summary of its five-year priorities.

Cuts by Service

Today’s budget proposal fleshes out the cuts for each of the military branches.

Army forces would be reduced by less than 1 percent to 1,115,300 in 2013 and then drop to 1,048,200 in 2017. That’s still far greater troop strength than in February 2002, a year before the U.S. invasion of Iraq, when the Army numbered about 480,000 on active duty.

The Navy would have 1.7 percent fewer personnel, or 385,200 in 2013, and faces a reduction of 3.9 percent to a total of 376,600 people in 2017.

The Marines would be down to 236,900 in 2013, or 2 percent fewer than this year. By the end of 2017, the Marines face a reduction of 8.3 percent from this year to 221,700.

The Air Force will have 501,000 personnel in 2013, or 1.9 percent fewer than this year. In 2017, Air Force personnel will decline to 499,300.

To contact the reporters on this story: Viola Gienger in Washington at; Roxana Tiron in Washington at


  1. I vote we start by cutting the CinC’s job and get someone in there who knows his a** from a hole in the ground and realizes the importance and necessity of a strong military.

  2. Let me preface this by saying I despise both political parties. That said, you don’t see the Republicans cutting out all their earmarks, any more than you see Democrats cutting unemployment benefits for the rampant unemployment. This is simply another way they try to divide and conquer, and if you ask me, they’re doing a damn good job of it.
    If ever we could see what they do, written in plain english, set out in black and white, we’d be appalled and vote every single one of the criminals out of office.
    Although if God-forbid, Rick Santorum becomes the GOP candidate, I’m going to have to vote for Obama, simply because Santorum is such a crazy SOB. Still crossing my fingers for Ron Paul. 😉
    Semper Fi,
    (yeah… I was a Marine. So it’s not like I’m “just” a crazy cynic)

  3. In this time of great uncertainty in the world with so many trouble spots around the globe,you would think that cuts in defence would be the last thing on the agenda.You just don’t know what is going to blow up in your face.

  4. This is something that I see and face daily within my job. Guys getting thrown out for the smallest reason no warning and no way to fight it most times. It is sad, especially for those that really did nothing wrong and have just come up to that EAS point and are not allowed to re-enlist because they have dropped the numbers ridiculously low for most MOS’S…..Then the focus is on their transition to the civilian world, but guess what, the civilian world is more lost in the economy than the DoD! SO pushing them out on their asses leaves more and more Veteran’s completely stranded.

  5. Meadowlark-
    DevilDog, think about what you are saying. I hear ya about the political situation in the US currently, we are a weak country. However, take a look at the below and if you can honestly tell me you would vote for this President again, I’m not sure you are paying attention:
    1) To start with-In 2009 President Obama canceled the 21st annual National Day of Prayer ceremony at the White House under the ruse Of “not wanting to offend anyone” BUT… on September 25, 2009 from 4 AM until 7 PM, a National Day of Prayer FOR THE MUSLIM RELIGION was Held on Capitol Hill, Beside the White House. There were over 50,000 Muslims in D.C. that day.
    2) President Obama walks out on speech by Jeb Bush (
    3) New national debt data: It’s growing about $3 million a minute, even during his vacation
    4) President Obama dissolves deportation-
    5) Obama Defends Roe v. Wade As Way for ‘Our Daughters’ to Have Same Chance As Sons to ‘Fulfill Their Dreams’ (
    6) Quotes from President Obama:
    > 2008: “Navy Seal Team 6 is
    > Cheney’s private assassination team.” -Barack Obama
    > 2011: “I put together Seal Team 6 to take out Bin Laden.”
    > 2008: “Bin Laden is innocent until proven guilty, and must be captured
    > alive
    > and given a fair trial.” – Barack Obama
    > 2011: “I authorized Seal Team 6 to kill Bin Laden.”
    > 2008: ”
    > Guantanamo is entirely unnecessary, and the detainees should not be
    > interrogated.” -Barack Obama
    > 2011: “Vital intelligence was obtained from Guantanamo detainees that led
    > to
    > our locating Bin Laden.”
    > 2006: “The fact that we are here today to debate raising America’s debt
    > limit is a sign of leadership failure…Leadership means that ‘the buck
    > stops here.’ Instead, Washington is shifting the burden of bad choices
    > today
    > onto the backs of our children and grandchildren. America has a debt
    > problem
    > and a failure of leadership. Americans deserve better. I therefore intend
    > to
    > oppose the effort to increase America’s debt limit.” -Sen.Barack Obama
    ‘Senator’ Obama replied: “As I’ve said about the flag pin (notice he never wears one), I don’t want to be perceived as taking sides.” “There are a lot of people in the world to whom the American flag is a symbol of oppression..” “The anthem itself conveys a war-like message. You know, the bombs bursting in air and all that sort of thing.”
    Obama continued: “The National Anthem should be ‘swapped’ for something less parochial and less bellicose. I like the song ‘I’d Like To Teach the World To Sing.’ If that were our anthem, then, I might salute it. In my opinion, we should consider reinventing our National Anthem as well as ‘redesign’ our Flag to better offer our enemies hope and love. It’s my intention, if elected, to disarm America to the level of acceptance to our Middle East Brethren. If we, as a Nation of waring people, conduct ourselves like the nations of Islam, where peace prevails – – – perhaps a state or period of mutual accord could exist between our governments ….”
    When I become President, I will seek a pact of agreement to end hostilities between those who have been at war or in a state of enmity, and a freedom from disquieting oppressive thoughts. We as a Nation, have placed upon the nations of Islam, an unfair injustice which is WHY my wife disrespects the Flag and she and I have attended several flag burning ceremonies in the past.”
    “Of course now, I have found myself about to become the President of the United States and I have put my hatred aside. I will use my power to bring CHANGE to this Nation, and offer the people a new path..My wife and I look forward to becoming our Country’s First black Family. Indeed, CHANGE is about to overwhelm the United States of America ”

  6. Meadowlark…..
    Please re think your voting for the current administration in the White House…. WE are LOSING our FREEDOMS day by day with each “Government” take over. Each candidate will have flaws… we all do.. But, none of them will give our country away like the current administration is doing.. I’m old and I could say I don’t care… but I do… I love and care for all those brave men and women who they themselves gave their lives for the freedoms we so cherish.. Let’s not lose it.

  7. Vote for this President again and then get use to paying $5 a gallon at the pumps (very soon).
    In an interview with Atlanta’s local Fox affiliate WAGA-TV President Obama explains why he was unable to cut the deficit in half in his first term, a promise he made as a candidate.
    ……..and you really want to vote for this again??????????

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