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Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Army Drawdown and Restructuring: Background and Issues for Congress

Andrew Feickert
Specialist in Military Ground Forces

On January 26, 2012, senior DOD leadership unveiled a new defense strategy based on a review of potential future security challenges, current defense strategy, and budgetary constraints. This new strategy envisions a smaller, leaner Army that is agile, flexible, rapidly deployable, and technologically advanced. This strategy will rebalance the Army’s global posture and presence, emphasizing where potential problems are likely to arise, such as the Asia-Pacific region and the Middle East.

As part of the Administration’s proposal, two armored brigade combat teams (ABCTs) in Europe will be eliminated out of a total of eight BCTs that will be cut from Active Army force structure. The Army has stated that it may cut more than eight BCTs from the Army’s current 44 Active BCTs. Army endstrength will go from 570,000 in 2010 to 490,000 during the Future Year Defense Plan (FYDP) period. As part of this reduction, the Army would no longer be sized to conduct large-scale, protracted stability operations but would continue to be a full-spectrum force capable of addressing a wide range of national security challenges. The Army National Guard and Army Reserves were not targeted for significant cuts. Army leadership stated the impending decrease in Active Duty Army force structure would place an even greater reliance on the National Guard and Reserves.

There will likely be a human dimension of the Army’s drawdown. Troops have received an unprecedented level of support from the American public, and those soldiers leaving the service—voluntarily and perhaps involuntarily—might have strong personal feelings about leaving the Army and their comrades after multiple deployments to combat zones. The Army drawdown will likely be achieved in large degree by controlling accessions (i.e., the number of people allowed to join the Army). If limiting accessions is not enough to achieve the desired endstrength targets, the Army can employ a variety of involuntary and voluntary drawdown tools authorized by Congress, such as Selective Early Retirement Boards (SERBs) and Reduction-in- Force (RIF). Voluntary tools that the Army might use include the Voluntary Retirement Incentive, the Voluntary Separation Incentive, Special Separation Bonuses, Temporary Early Retirement Authority, the Voluntary Early Release/Retirement Program, and Early Outs.

The Administration’s proposals to drawdown and restructure the Army have a number of strategic implications. These implications include the capability to conduct stability and counterinsurgency operations, the ability to fight two simultaneous wars, shifting strategic emphasis to the Asia- Pacific region, and how the Army will maintain presence in the Middle East. Other related concerns include reducing Army presence in Europe and the Army’s role in the rest of the world.

Until the Army provides detailed plans on how many units will be cut, how remaining units will be structured, and where they will be based, it is difficult to determine the impact on Army weapon systems under development and the overall budgetary implications of the Army’s plan.

Potential issues for Congress include the strategic risk posed by a smaller and restructured Army; the “health” of the Army given the impending downsizing; where the force will be based; and the role of the National Guard and Reserves.

Date of Report: January 3, 2013
Number of Pages: 39
Order Number: R42493
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