The U.S. Army plans to cut at least a dozen brigades over the next five years as part of a large-scale restructuring of the active-duty force, Chief of Staff Gen. Raymond Odierno announced Tuesday.
The service plans to reduce the number of brigade combat teams, or BCTs, from 45 to 33 as part of a previously announced plan to reduce the active component by 80,000 soldiers, or 14 percent, to 490,000 soldiers by 2017, Odierno said today at a press conference at the Pentagon. Another brigade may still be eliminated for a total of 13, he said.
And it could get worse. The Army's plans are a result of about $500 billion in decade-long defense spending reductions mandated in the 2011 deficit-reduction legislation known as the Budget Control Act.
They don't take into account an additional $500 billion in automatic cuts known as sequestration that will slice into the Pentagon's long-term budget unless Congress and the White House come up with an alternative plan.
"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," Rep. Howard "Buck" McKeon, R-Calif., chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, 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."
The move -- which is estimated to save $400 million in military construction costs alone -- will affect bases across the country.
At least 10 stateside installations are slated to lose a brigade, including Fort Bliss, Texas; Fort Bragg, N.C.; Fort Campbell, Ky.; Fort Carson, Colo.; Fort Drum, N.Y.; Fort Hood, Texas; Fort Knox, Ky.; Fort Riley, Kan.; Fort Stewart, Ga., and Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash.
Lawmakers from those states were upset but tempered in their reaction to the news.
"I am very disappointed that Fort Carson is one of ten bases around the country that will lose a brigade combat team by the year 2017," Rep. Doug Lamborn, R-Colo., said in an e-mailed statement. "However the blow is considerably softened by the fact that all but 750 of those soldiers will remain at Fort Carson and be reassigned to other missions. Including other restructuring changes, the Army anticipates Fort Carson will actually increase in size by 1,800 active duty Army personnel."
Two more brigade combat teams are already in the process of being removed from Germany, one from Baumholder and another from Grafenwoehr. The Army plans to keep two BCTs in Europe to meet strategic commitments.
Decisions on where to make the reductions were based on numerous factors, Odierno said, from cost and regional socio-economic impacts to the strategic distribution of forces, including the service's alignment with the Pentagon's planned shift in focus to the Asia-Pacific region.
The Army is also reorganizing the makeup of the brigade combat teams to sustain as much combat potential as possible despite the overall reduction in quantity, Odierno said. The reorganization is based on extensive analysis and the lessons learned from more than a decade of war, he said.
"We will add a third maneuver battalion – and additional fires and engineering capability to each of our armor and infantry brigade combat teams in order to make them more lethal, more flexible and more agile," he said.
The decision to restructure the BCTS eliminates the headquarters but preserves 13 armor and infantry battalions "that would be lost without the reorganization," according to a statement provided by the Army. The service will also continue to invest in aviation, special operations, missile defense and cyber security, it states.
While the plans detailed thus far only affect the active component, sequestration would require an additional reduction in the Guard and Reserve forces of as much as 100,000 troops, Odierno said.