'The military's going to get smaller': TRANSCOM braces for Army cuts

News-DemocratFebruary 25, 2014 

— With fewer than 200 soldiers assigned to it, the U.S. Transportation Command will probably feel the impact of Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel's proposal to cut U.S. Army troop strength next year by 80,000 soldiers, to 440,000 -- its lowest level since 1940.

"The military's going to get smaller because (the proposed cuts) will have an effect," said Cynthia Bauer, a USTRANSCOM spokeswoman. "We don't know what type of effect it will have."

Hagel's proposed troop cuts are contained in the 2015 Pentagon budget that Hagel has submitted to Congress, which still must approve it -- a process that could stretch into the summer. The 2015 federal budget year begins Oct. 1.

Hagel's plans leave the Air Force relatively unscathed, with the exception of the much beloved A-10 "Warthog" tank buster airplanes.

The Air Force's entire A-10 fleet would be retired, saving an estimated $3.5 billion over five years. Air Force Gen. William Fraser III, USTRANSCOM outgoing commander, is scheduled to testify Thursday before U.S. House Armed Services Committee on the command's posture, according to the committee calendar.

Hagel outlined his plans for a smaller Army in a Pentagon speech Monday, a week before President Barack Obama is set to submit his 2015 budget plan to Congress.

The U.S. military must adjust to the reality of smaller budgets, even as the Pentagon faces a more volatile, more unpredictable world requiring a more nimble military, Hagel said in his speech.

Hagel's plans call for the downsizing of the the active-duty Army to between 440,000 and 450,000 troops from the current 522,000 soldiers. That would shrink the Army down to its smallest size since before the start of World War II.

In a detailed analysis of Hagel's proposed Pentagon budget, the National Journal reported that its big "winners" are special operations forces, which would see their ranks swell to nearly 70,000 from the current 66,000, and cybersecurity units.

Conversely, the budget's "losers" are American military bases in Europe, which Hagel can close without congressional approval, and military grocery stores, which will lose $400 million of their current $1.4 billion taxpayer subsidy.

In addition, Hagel is recommending a basic pay increase of 1 percent for America's active duty military, while the most senior officers will have their pay frozen for one year.

Contact reporter Mike Fitzgerald at mfitzgerald@bnd.com or 618-239-2533.

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