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Cut Troops, Civilians, Bases DoD Study Urges

By Linda D. Kozaryn
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, May 20, 1997 – DoD is slimming down to make way for the future. Quadrennial Defense Review proposals call for cutting troops, civilian employees, bases and major equipment buys as the military streamlines operations to pay for modernization.

"We can sharpen the blade and shave the hilt and give America a sword that's far more lethal and more agile," said Defense Secretary William S. Cohen. "We have an uncertain future, and it requires that we maintain military superiority."

The review released May 19 recommends cutting about 60,000 active duty service members, 55,000 reserve component personnel and 80,000 civilian employees over the next five to six years. The proposed reductions are on top of cuts already planned in the Future Years Defense Plan.

Cohen and Army Gen. John M. Shalikashvili, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, announced review results at a Pentagon news conference. "In the near term," Shalikashvili said, "the QDR concludes that we can move towards a leaner force by reorganizing headquarters, trimming support functions, improving our ability to manage optempo and perstempo and realigning reserve forces."

The review proposes cutting 15,000 active duty Army personnel, 18,000 Navy, 27,000 Air Force and 1,800 Marine. This is in addition to the Future Years' Defense Plan cuts of 30,000. There are currently 1.45 million active duty service members.

The review proposes cutting about another 55,000 reserve component service members -- 45,000 Army, 4,100 Navy, 700 Air Force and 4,200 Marine Corps. Army leaders will determine the exact breakdown of Army Reserve and National Guard, DoD officials said. Officials already plan a 10,000-member cut under the Future Years Defense Plan. There are now 900,000 service members in the reserve components.

The review proposes an added cut of 80,000 civilian workers, which would bring total planned civilian cuts to 160,000. The review proposes Army losing 33,700 civilian workers, Navy, 8,400; Air Force, 18,300; and Marine Corps, 400. The remaining 19,200 cuts will come from DoD's 24 defense agencies, officials said. There are 800,000 civilians working for DoD.

"Modest reductions in the active force and infrastructure will be targeted at supporters and not shooters," Cohen said. Support organizations will be more responsive to the warfighters they support, he said. The review includes a proposed cut of about 109,000 military and civilian support personnel.

Active duty end strength will be 1.36 million, down 36 percent from 1989, Shalikashvili said, with the reserve components dropping to 835,000, down 29 percent. Civilian personnel will decline to 640,000, down 42 percent from 1989.

"While these reductions are essential if we are to meet our modernization goals, these reductions will not be easy," Shalikashvili said. "These are not positions or spaces I'm talking about; they are people. Every man or woman who leaves the service is a unique story in his or her own right. To keep faith with our people, our most precious resource, we will offer a wide range of programs and services, as we did during previous drawdowns."

These will include early retirement and voluntary separation programs, selected continuation of benefits for separated members and comprehensive transition assistance. "Some of these tools will expire at the end of fiscal year 1999, but we will ask Congress that they be continued beyond then so we can implement these reductions fairly and compassionately," Shalikashvili said.

Throughout the review, the chairman said, defense officials tried to minimize the impact of force reductions on those who will leave and those who will stay. "Our major strength is our men and women. They and their families must remain our highest priority, and we must continue to provide for their quality of life," Shalikashvili said. "From the beginning of this process, we were very conscious that we must balance the requirements to invest in the force of tomorrow, with the requirement to field and trained and ready force today."

Defense officials looked for ways to generate money for modernization without degrading readiness, Shalikashvili said. "Readiness is already challenged by the high operating tempo we face in every one of our services."

Defense officials believe they can reduce stress on the force, increase service members' time at home and maintain readiness at the same time, he said. The review proposes cutting the number of man-days per major joint and service training exercise to help reduce personnel and operational tempo. It also calls for reviewing deployment rates for specialized units such as Patriot missile batteries, airborne warning and control aircraft and military police.

Base closures will also add savings to the modernization account. DoD officials plan to request congressional approval to conduct two rounds of base realignment and closure, including a consolidation of laboratories and research, development and test facilities.

"Even after four BRAC rounds, we still have excess facilities," Cohen said. "Our force structure is down roughly 33 percent; infrastructure has been reduced roughly 21 percent. The QDR confirmed we're still carrying some excess weight. By slimming down our operations, we can plow that money into the kind of modernization we believe is necessary for the future."

DoD is beginning to break even on previous base closures, Cohen said. "By the year 2001, they will pay back over $5 billion annually," he said. "Again, this is money we can use to equip our troops with the most advanced weaponry."

The review proposes some force structure changes within the services. While the Army retains 10 active, combat ready divisions, plans call for cutting 15,000 soldiers and 45,000 reservists through deactivation, consolidation and realignment of headquarters and support facilities. Some reserve combat units will convert to combat support units.

The Navy will retain 12 carrier battle groups and 12 amphibious ready groups, but the number of attack submarines will drop from 73 to 50, and surface combatant ships will drop from 128 to 116. Plans call for cutting the number of Navy FA-18E/F fighter jets to be bought from 1,000 to 548, but increasing the number of Joint Strike Fighters to 480.

"These fleet reductions, combined with streamlining of overseas infrastructure, and the transfer of some combat logistics functions to the Military Sealift Command, will allow the Navy to reduce active and reserve end strength by 18,000 and 4,100 personnel, respectively," Shalikashvili said.

The Air Force will go from 13 to 12 fighter wings and eight reserve wings. Air Force fighter and bomber units will consolidate and the continental air defense structure will be reduced. Plans call for cutting the number of Air Force F-22 aircraft from 438 to 329. "These initiatives will allow the Air Force to realize a reduction of approximately 27,000 active duty personnel," Shalikashvili said.

The Marine Corps will maintain its current three divisions, but will take modest reductions in end strength through restructuring -- about 1,800 troops, Shalikashvili said. Plans call for accelerating production of the Marine's MV-22 tilt rotor aircraft, but reducing the number from 425 to 360.

The nuclear force structure will be maintained at Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty I levels until START II is ratified, Shalikashvili said. "We remain committed to START II and III and plan to use the savings from these reductions possible to further our National Missile Defense Program," he said.

Highlights of other review proposals include:

  • Adding $2 billion to the budget for National Missile Defense development program. Slowing the Theater High-Altitude Air Defense program due to technical difficulties;
  • Adding $1 billion to accelerate fielding the Army's Force XXI digitized division;
  • Adding $1 billion to defend against chemical and biological weapon proliferation;
  • Outsourcing, privatizing and streamlining headquarters and support operations. A Cohen-appointed Defense Reform Task Force will report in November on ways to improve efficiency in the Office of the Secretary of Defense and 24 defense agencies and about 80 defensewide programs.

Cohen said the defense review was based on a three-pronged strategy: shaping world environment through forward presence and strong alliances; responding to world crises ranging from small-scale contingencies to two nearly simultaneous major theater wars; and preparing for the future by combining modern technology with new informational concepts as outlined in the Joint Chiefs of Staff's Joint Vision 2010.

"We have to modernize if we're to meet our strategy," Cohen said. "We have to deregulate the department so we can become as efficient and agile as our warfighters." The Cold War's end, he said, brought new missions and new challenges.

"The threat of nuclear war has receded," Cohen said. "But there are dangers that remain, and some are changing and growing." These include aggression by hostile states in key regions, proliferation of weapons technology and transnational dangers such as uncontrolled migrant flows, illegal drug trafficking and international organized crime, he said.

"We do not expect a regional power or a peer competitor for the next 10 or 15 years, but we have to prepare for that possibility in the years beyond," Cohen said.

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