By Viola Gienger and Roxana Tiron - Feb 13, 2012 3:51 PM CT
The Defense Department may have to force soldiers, Marines or other members of the military out of the services for the first time since the aftermath of the Cold War to achieve the spending reductions in its budget proposal.
The Pentagon plans to cut 67,100 soldiers from active and reserve Army units and the Army National Guard in the five years starting Oct. 1, as well as 15,200 from the active and reserve ranks of the Marine Corps as part of an effort to save $487 billion over a decade, according to the budget sent to Congress today. The Navy and Air Force would lose fewer people -- 8,600 and 1,700 respectively -- because of their role in a strategic shift toward the Asia-Pacific region and the Middle East.
The military will first try buying out contracts or offering bonuses for people to leave, while working to keep those with valuable specialties such as cyber warfare and acquisitions, according to Travis Sharp, a fellow at the Center for a New American Security, a Washington policy group, who attended a Pentagon briefing for analysts last month.
“I was surprised that they were going to complete the reductions to the Army and the Marine Corps in just five years,” Sharp said in an interview before the budget was released. “What they told us is that they will try to use those types of positive incentives to the greatest extent possible, but that involuntary separations would probably still be necessary.”
The Pentagon has said it is aiming to a create a smaller, more agile military. Special operations forces, whose commandos killed Osama bin Laden last year, would be expanded.
Republicans in Congress already have signaled they will challenge the Pentagon reductions when lawmakers take up the proposed fiscal 2013 budget that President Barack Obama sent to Congress today.
Representative Howard “Buck” McKeon, the Republican chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, cited a comment by White House Chief of Staff Jack Lew in an interview on NBC’s “Meet the Press” that “the time for austerity is not today.”
“They’ll have a tough time explaining that to the 100,000 troops who will be forced from service under the president’s new budget plan,” McKeon of California said today in a statement.