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Tuesday, November 5, 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 original proposal, two armored brigade combat teams (ABCTs) in Europe were to be eliminated out of a total of eight BCTs that would be cut from Active Army force structure. The Army had originally stated that it might cut more than eight BCTs from the Army’s current 44 Active BCTs. Army endstrength would go from 570,000 in 2010 to 490,000 by the end of 2017. As part of this reduction, the Army would no longer be sized to conduct largescale, 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.

On June 25, 2013, the Army announced it would cut 12 BCTs from the Active Army as well as a number of unspecified support and headquarters units. As part of this initiative, infantry and armored BCTs would receive a third maneuver battalion plus additional engineering and fires capabilities. In addition, National Guard BCTs would also be restructured in a similar fashion. Due to the impact of sequestration, the Army also decided to accelerate the Active Army drawdown to 490,000 soldiers by two years—these cuts would now need to be completed by the end of 2015. In an effort to reduce costs, the Army also announced that it would examine cutting all two-star and higher headquarters staffs by 25%—a figure that includes soldiers, Army civilians, and contractors.

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 raise some potential issues for congressional consideration. These questions include the potential impacts of accelerating the Army’s drawdown by two years and whether the current Active Component/Reserve Component force mix should be reexamined.

Date of Report: October 25, 2013
Number of Pages: 29
Order Number: R42493
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