Layoffs hit the Army
The Army plans to cut 40,000 soldiers from its ranks over the next two years, a reduction that will affect virtually all of its domestic and foreign posts, the service asserts in a document obtained by USA TODAY.
The potential troop cut comes as the Obama administration is pondering its next moves against the Islamic State militant group in Iraq and Syria. President Obama said Monday he and military leaders had not discussed sending additional troops to Iraq to fight the Islamic State. There are about 3,500 troops in Iraq.
"This will not be quick — this is a long-term campaign," Obama said at the Pentagon after meeting top military brass in the wake of setbacks that have prompted critics to call for a more robust U.S. response against the Islamic State.
An additional 17,000 Army civilian employees would be laid off under the plan officials intend to announce this week. Under the plan, the Army would have 450,000 soldiers by Sept. 30, 2017, the end of the 2017 budget year. The reduction in troops and civilians is due to budget constraints, the document says.
The Pentagon's budget, released in February, envisioned the reduction to 450,000 would occur by Sept. 30, 2018.
The reason for all the cuts? Some were expected, but the bulk are due to the budget sequester:
If the automatic budget cuts known as sequestration, set to begin in October, take place the Army would have to slash another 30,000 soldiers, according to the document. At that level, the Army would not be able to meet its current deployments and respond to demands for troops in other regions.
The sequester was a gimmick put in place (and backed by the Obama administration) to force congress">Congress to cut a budget deal over raising the debt ceiling. No deal was reached, and sequestration went into effect in 2013.
Now we are seeing the results: manpower reductions in the armed forces.
This strikes us as an odd place to begin cutting. Unlike so much else of what the federal government does, national defense is one of its constitutional responsibilities. Cutting personnel appears not so much a response to slimmer budgets, but a classic "Washington Monument" strategy -- make the cuts as visible and painful as possible in order to get Congress to spend more.
In this instance, we're not talking about closing national parks or cancelling White House tours. This is cutting the muscle from national defense at a time when the threats to our security are rising. Weakening our defenses is not a strategy. It is a dangerous, cynical gamble.