According to the Army Times, “nearly 2,600 soldiers departed active service in March without being replaced, an action that plunges manning to its lowest level since before World War II.”
In fact, with 479,172 soldiers, the Army currently has the smallest force since 1940, when there were 269,023 active duty troops. The current troop strength of 479,172 is expected to decline to just 450,000 by 2018.
The reserves currently include 548,024 soldiers, for a total force of 1,027,196, according to the Army Times. When the drawdown is completed in 2018, the total of active and reserve forces will be 980,000.
“These are not cuts the Army wants to make, these are cuts required by budget environment in which we operate,” Fox News recalls Army Vice Chief of Staff Gen. Daniel Allyn saying in July, when the draw-down plan was presented.
General Allyn added that the reduction of 40,000 active duty troops would “only get us to the program force” and does not “deal with the continued threat of sequestration.” Sequestration refers to mandatory cuts in both domestic and military spending that go into effect if Congress cannot work out a satisfactory budget deal.
When the drawdown was announced last summer, critics warned that troop strength was “dropping dangerously low,” as Senate Armed Services Committee chairman John McCain (R-AZ) put it. McCain also warned that Marine, Air Force, and Navy strength was shrinking to “pre-World War I levels,” along with the Army.
On the other hand, Harlan Ullman of the Killowen Group argued that “emotion rather than thoughtful analysis is dominating reactions to these drawdowns.”
Ullman said that unless the U.S. contemplates another large-scale invasion and occupation, the reduced troop level “seems more than enough to keep the nation safe.” He made the case that technological advancements made military units less dependent on raw manpower, and it was urgent to control the rising cost of maintaining a large active duty force.