US Army to Drop at Least 13 Brigades by 2017

As the U.S. military begins to grapple with mandated budget cuts, we are beginning to see some of the results. Troop reductions are one of the quickest ways in which the military intends to reduce its costs. Because cutting the budget is a process, we are likely to see a lot of give and take as military leaders work with lawmakers over the next five years.

DoD photo of Army soldiers by Staff Sgt. Aaron Allmon, U.S. Air Force. (Released)

The U.S. Army plans to eliminate at least a dozen brigades over the next five years in what has been described as the largest restructuring of the force since World War II. The Army will reduce the number of brigade combat teams from 45 to 33, a targeted reduction of 80,000 soldiers (to 490,000 soldiers) by 2017, according to Army Chief of Staff Gen. Raymond Odierno.

Army Working to Preserve Combat Readiness

The Army is also reorganizing the makeup of the brigade combat teams to retain as much combat potential as possible despite the reductions, Odierno added. The service will add a third maneuver battalion – and additional fires and engineering potential to each armor and infantry brigade combat teams to make them more lethal, more flexible and more agile. According to Odierno, the Army will also keep investing in aviation, special operations, missile defense, and cyber security

A brigade is an imprecise troop count of between 3,000 to 5,000 solders. A brigade headquarters commands the tactical operation of two to five attached combat battalions. Normally commanded by a colonel with a command sergeant major as senior NCO, brigades are employed on independent or semi-independent operations.

Congressman Buck McKeon (R-Calif.), chairman of the House Armed Services Committee that has oversight in this area, does not paint a rosy picture going forward. “As damaging as they are, these cuts don’t begin to reflect the crippling damage sequestration will do to our armed forces and national security,” McKeon said in an e-mailed statement after the Army’s announcement. “This is only the tip of the iceberg. Much deeper cuts are still to come.”

At least 10 stateside installations (from all over the US) will lose a brigade each and two German bases are being inactivated, one from Baumholder and another from Grafenwoehr.

The reduction represents about a 14 percent drop in force size. General Odierno said the force would eventually drop to 32 brigades, but a decision had not yet been made on the final unit to be cut. He said as the 13 brigades are inactivated, some of the forces would be transferred to other brigades to make them “more lethal, more flexible and more agile.”

The Army hopes to absorb some of the effect of the cuts to troop strength with increased firepower and technological advancements. Battalions of infantry, Stryker combat vehicles, engineering and artillery units would be shifted to other brigades along with engineering and artillery units, according to Odieraid.

The cuts mainly affect the active-duty force. The Army Reserve will remain at 205,000 soldiers and the state-based National Guard militia will lose 8,000 soldiers, dropping to 350,000 from 358,000. However, depending on how Congress deals with the mandated budget cuts, the military may have to shed another 100,000 soldiers from the National Guard and Army Reserve. The first installment of across-the-board reductions took effect in March of this year.


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