The US Defence Secretary Chuck Hagel has set out President Barack Obama’s proposed Pentagon budget for fiscal year 2015 during a news conference at Pentagon in Washington, DC, US.
Scheduled to be sent to Congress for approval early next month, the budget request calls for shrinking the US Army to as low as 440,000 active duty soldiers from the current size of 520,000, its smallest size since before World War II, assuming the US does not get involved in large, prolonged stability operations overseas.
In addition to this, the budget calls for special operations forces to grow in size by around 4,000 personnel, bringing the total to 69,700, while envisioning a 5% reduction in the Army National Guard (ANG) and Army Reserve.
Hagel said the current army size is larger than required to meet the demands of US defence strategy and also larger than the country can afford to modernise and keep ready.
"The smaller force would still be capable of decisively defeating aggression in one major war while also defending the homeland and supporting air and naval forces engaged in another theater against an adversary," Hagel said.
Additional proposals in the budget request include the transfer of ANG’s Apache and Black Hawk helicopters to the active force, and the National Guard, respectively, and cancellation of the ground combat vehicle programme.
The request allows the US Navy to maintain 11 carrier strike groups, continue the acquisition of two destroyers and attack submarines annually, but places half of its cruiser fleet in reduced operating status.
Within the US Air Force, the budget calls for saving $3.5bn through retirement of the A-10 fleet and its replacement with the F-35 fighter by the early 2020s.
The Marine Corps will be reduced to 182,000 from 190,000, and would have to shrink further if sequestration returns in 2016.Commenting on budget, US Joint Chiefs of Staff chairman Army General Martin Dempsey said, "It reflects in real terms how we’re reducing our cost and making sure the force is in the right balance."
Image: US Defence Secretary Chuck Hagel briefs reporters on his recommendations to President Barack Obama for the fiscal year 2015 budget at the Pentagon, US. Photo: courtesy of US Marine Corps Sgt. Aaron Hostutler.