Gates, Mullen Support Force Reduction Plans

WASHINGTON, Feb. 16, 2011 — Reduc­tions in end strength for the Army and Marine Corps begin­ning in 2015 will be con­di­tions-based, and can be tai­lored if required when the time comes to imple­ment them, defense lead­ers told Con­gress today.
Defense Sec­re­tary Robert M. Gates and Navy Adm. Mike Mullen, chair­man of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told the House Armed Ser­vices Com­mit­tee they sup­port plans to reduce ground forces end strength. The plan fac­tors in the draw­down of all U.S. forces in Iraq by the year’s end, and a reduc­tion of forces in Afghanistan, Gates told the pan­el.

“A big assump­tion in this is that we have a very much small­er pres­ence in Afghanistan at the end of 2014 than we do now,” he said. “And I think you will know as ear­ly as the end of 2012 [or] begin­ning of 2013 whether that is going to hap­pen.”

Gates and Mullen said the plan also sup­ports con­tin­u­ing efforts to increase “dwell time” at home sta­tions between deploy­ments.

The Marine Corps lead­er­ship ful­ly sup­ports reduc­ing the Corps’ end strength when it com­pletes oper­a­tions in Afghanistan, Gates said. Both Marine Corps Com­man­dant Gen. James F. Amos and his pre­de­ces­sor, retired Gen. James T. Con­way, believe the cur­rent Marine Corps is “both too large and too heavy to ful­fill its tra­di­tion­al mis­sions going for­ward,” the sec­re­tary said.

“They are the nation’s sec­ond land force, which is not what they want to be,” Mullen said. “And they have got to get back to some degree, as we move ahead, to their roots — which is lighter and small­er.”

Though it’s still unclear exact­ly how many com­bat brigades the Army will require, Mullen said, plans gen­er­al­ly call for between six and 10.

“The Army has become much more expe­di­tionary, and that is where we are head­ed,” Mullen said. “And I am very com­fort­able with that.”

Mullen said he’s also com­fort­able that end-strength deci­sions aren’t locked in stone. The ser­vice chiefs will have ample oppor­tu­ni­ty to change their rec­om­men­da­tions if the con­di­tions war­rant it, he said.

But at a time when the mil­i­tary is seek­ing effi­cien­cies and the most effec­tive use of every defense dol­lar, the chair­man said, per­son­nel costs have to be addressed. The ser­vice chiefs report that when fac­tor­ing in mil­i­tary, civil­ian and direct-sup­port con­trac­tors, per­son­nel costs rep­re­sent 60 to 70 per­cent of their bud­gets, he not­ed.

“We are on our way to becom­ing almost immo­bi­lized by just what it costs in terms of our peo­ple,” he told the com­mit­tee.

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

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