Active Army Needs up to 74,000 More Soldiers, Chief Says

FILE - In this Sept. 15, 2016 photo, Army Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Milley testifies on Capitol Hill in Washington. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh, File)
FILE - In this Sept. 15, 2016 photo, Army Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Milley testifies on Capitol Hill in Washington. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh, File)

The U.S. Army's chief of staff told Congress recently that the service's active force should add up to 74,000 more soldiers over the next decade to deal with the increasing demands on the operational force.

In addition to a larger active force, Gen. Mark Milley told members of the Senate Appropriations Committee on June 7 that the National Guard should add up to 12,000 soldiers and the Reserves should increase its end-strength by up to 10,000 soldiers.

Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-South Carolina, said he believed that the demands on the Army over the next decade will only increase.

"How big should the Army be in the next decade Gen. Milley?" Graham asked.

Milley told Graham that "my guess is somewhere for the regular Army is somewhere in and around the 540,000-550,000 range."

"For the National Guard, I'd like to see them in the 350,000-355,000 range and for the Reserves somewhere around the 205,000-209,000 range," Milley said.

The Army's $166 billion budget request for fiscal 2018 continues to support the increased end-strength of all components mandated in the fiscal 2017 National Defense Authorization Act, including the move to increase the active force from a previous target of 450,000 to 476,000 in fiscal 2017.

The request funds a 343,000-member National Guard and a 199,000-member Reserve force.

Milley added, however, that Secretary of Defense James Mattis, is currently leading a strategic review to determine the future size and capabilities of the U.S. Military.

The Army's budget request is about $15 billion, or 10 percent, larger than the recently enacted fiscal 2017 spending plan. The increase in funding for the entire U.S. Military under Trump Administration's budget request, many lawmakers argue, is only made possible through dramatic cuts to several domestic agencies including the State Department.

Graham asked Milley to characterize the importance of agencies such as State Department play in the defense of the United States.

"We have to use not only the military forces, but we need the State Department, the CIA, the FBI," Milley said. "Those all participate in various capacities, so it's important to have a whole-of-government approach to the conduct of war."

Graham characterized the proposed cuts to domestic agencies to pay for increased defense spending as a "problem."

"I appreciate the increase in defense, but the cuts ... are real and they will affect our ability to defend the nation too," Graham said.

-- Matthew Cox can be reached at matthew.cox@military.com.

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