Our colleague Matt Cox has still more detail on what the Army is considering as part of its build-down over the coming months and years, and perhaps the most important part is this number: 10.
Army officials are considering eliminating 10 brigade combat teams, Cox reports, and now the big question inside the service is exactly which ones will go away. Here’s what he wrote:
Currently, the Army’s active ground force is made up of 22 infantry BCTs, 15 heavy BCTs, seven Stryker BCTs and the 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment, which has been designated to transform into another Stryker BCT. For now, the Army plans to retain all of its Stryker BCTs. Stryker units are the largest in the BCT structure, with three maneuver battalions.
It’s still unclear which of the five heavy and five infantry BCTs the Army will cut from the active force, but combat capability and strategic location inside the U.S. and abroad are some of the considerations Army planners will look at when cutting, said the official who spoke to Military.com.
Army leaders say 520,000 is the right number for the active component. Army planners would have to get very creative if the economic state of the country forces the service to cut to a number below 500,000, the senior Army official said.
“You’ve got to look at support brigades and headquarters elements,” the official said. Maybe “one HQ can take care of 10 units. We are looking at division, corps and theater assets.”
Did you catch that bit about how Big Army wants to build down to an end strength of 520,000? It sounds a lot like the Pentagon’s decision to proceed with its official planning and budgeting as if its $487 billion in reduced budget growth is the only hit it’ll take going forward. There’s an good chance that outside circumstances, including domestic politics (i.e. sequestration) or a worldwide economic collapse (i.e. Euro-catastrophe) could ultimately force the Army to field even fewer troops, but that is beyond the pale for now.
Pentagon officials have seeded the number 490,000 with a few of the Washington hacks they’ve given an advance read, and even Chief of Staff Gen. Ray Odierno has said publicly he wouldn’t be surprised if the Army goes below its 520,000 floor. But service officials evidently hope, like everyone else in the Palace, that if they show good faith in getting to this reduction they won’t have to get to another one.