The number of U.S. Army soldiers on active duty has been reduced to its lowest since 1940, according to a published report.
The Army Times reported this weekend that the Army's end strength for March was 479,172. That's 154 fewer soldiers than the service's previous post-World War II low, which was reached during the Army's post-Cold War drawdown in 1999.
The current number is still well above the 269,023 soldiers on duty in 1940, the year before America entered World War II. However, the report says the active force has been reduced by more than 16,500 troops over the past year -- the equivalent of about three brigades.
According to the Army Times, the Army is on track to reach its goal of reducing the number of active duty troops to 475,000 by Sept. 30, the end of fiscal year 2016. Under a drawdown plan unveiled last July, the number of active-duty soldiers would be reduced to 460,000 soldiers by the end of fiscal year 2017 and 450,000 by the end of fiscal year 2018, barring action by Congress or the Pentagon.
If those targets are met, the number of soldiers on active duty would be down 20 percent from 2010, when there were nearly 570,000 soldiers on active duty.
When the Army presented its plan last July, military officials said their hands were tied by reduced funding levels.
"These are not cuts the Army wants to make, these are cuts required by budget environment in which we operate," Gen. Daniel Allyn, vice chief of staff of the Army, said at the time. "This 40,000 soldier cut ... will only get us to the program force, it does not deal with the continued threat of sequestration."
The Army Times report said that 2,600 soldiers departed active service in March without being replaced.
In addition to those on active duty, the Army has 548,024 soldiers in reserve, for a total force of 1,027,196 soldiers. Under the drawdown plan, the total force number would be reduced to 980,000 by the end of fiscal year 2018.