A trio of four-star Army commanders issued a unified assessment that current plans to cut Army active-duty end strength to 450,000 soldiers by the end of 2018 would make it tougher for the service to meet its ongoing operational commitments and also increase the potential risk to U.S. national security.
At a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing Tuesday, Sen. Daniel Sullivan (R-Alaska) first noted Army Chief of Staff Gen. Mark A. Milley’s statement that further shrinking the active-duty force will incur increased risk, then invited the chiefs of U.S. Central Command, U.S. Africa Command and U.S. Special Operations Command to offer their own “professional military judgment” on that assessment.
They did not hold back. Army Gen. Lloyd J. Austin III, who will soon step down as commander of U.S. Central Command and retire, said the shrinking size of the Army preoccupied him when he served as vice chief of staff through most of 2012 and into early 2013, before he took over CENTCOM.
“I was concerned about the direction we’re heading in then, and even more so now,” Austin said. “I do agree with Gen. Milley’s comments. We’re getting dangerously small.”
Army Gen. David Rodriguez, commander of U.S. Africa Command, said cutting the Army’s active component to 450,000 soldiers is “high-risk,” both in terms of accommodating ongoing operations and in maintaining adequate readiness to confront potential regional threats represented by North Korea, Iran, China and Russia.
Army Gen. Joseph L. Votel, commander of U.S. Special Operations Command who has been tapped to replace Austin, also agreed. “I would just add, as special operations commander, that we are extraordinarily dependent on the services, the Army in particular,” Votel said. “What they bring in institutional and infrastructure capability … we are absolutely dependent on that.”
Votel said he is “concerned about the impact, directly and indirectly,” that further cuts in Army active-duty end strength could have on special operations capabilities.
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