DOD Directs Army, Marine Drawdowns for 2015, 2016

WASHINGTON, Jan. 6, 2011 — Bud­get pres­sures that have proven greater than antic­i­pat­ed mean the Defense Depart­ment will trim end strength in its ground forces begin­ning in four years, Defense Sec­re­tary Robert M. Gates said today.

“Under this plan, the U.S. Army’s per­ma­nent active-duty end strength would decline by 27,000 troops, while the Marine Corps would decline by some­where between [15,000] and 20,000, depend­ing on the out­come of their force struc­ture review,” Gates said. 

The sec­re­tary and Navy Adm. Mike Mullen, chair­man of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, spoke to reporters at the Pen­ta­gon on the results of defense effi­cien­cies ini­tia­tives begun in May to trim sup­port costs and ensure fund­ing for mil­i­tary modernization. 

“The pro­ject­ed reduc­tions are based on an assump­tion that America’s ground com­bat com­mit­ment in Afghanistan would be sig­nif­i­cant­ly reduced by the end of 2014, in accor­dance with the president’s strat­e­gy,” Gates said. The Army also will lose the 22,000 troops it added in a tem­po­rary end-strength increase approved in July 2009, he added. 

“Ever since tak­ing this post, now more than four years ago, I have called for pro­tect­ing force struc­ture and for main­tain­ing mod­est, but real, growth in the defense topline over the long term,” Gates said. “I would pre­fer that this con­tin­ue to be the case, but this country’s dire fis­cal sit­u­a­tion and the threat it pos­es to Amer­i­can influ­ence and cred­i­bil­i­ty around the world will only get worse unless the U.S. gov­ern­ment … gets its finances in order.” 

Gates said even after force reduc­tion, both ser­vices would remain larg­er than they had been when he became sec­re­tary — the Army almost 40,000 troops larg­er, and the Marine Corps any­where from 7,000 to 12,000 troops larger. 

Both ser­vices sup­port the deci­sion, the sec­re­tary said, not­ing Marine Corps lead­ers have spo­ken of trim­ming back the increas­es their force struc­ture has seen in recent years. 

“I think [the Marines] see this as … more of an organ­ic process with­in the Marine Corps in terms of their pri­or­i­ties and their needs,” Gates said. “In the case of the Army, this is a sit­u­a­tion where the Army is sup­port­ive of this deci­sion. I think … that sup­port derives from under­stand­ing the impor­tance of this in terms of their oth­er pri­or­i­ties, as well.” 

U.S. Depart­ment of Defense
Office of the Assis­tant Sec­re­tary of Defense (Pub­lic Affairs) 

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