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Army cutting force by 24K in major restructuring

The U.S. Army is cutting its force by about 24,000 positions, nearly 5 percent, a restructuring effort it says will help prepare it to fight in future wars as it struggles to recruit soldiers.  

The cuts will bring the Army from a force structure of roughly 494,000 troops to 470,000 by fiscal year 2029, mainly cutting already-empty roles such as jobs in counter-insurgency. Such positions increased during the Iraq and Afghanistan wars but demand dropped off after the conflicts were ended.  

“We’re moving away from counterterrorism and counterinsurgency, we want to be postured for large-scale combat operations,” Army Secretary Christine Wormuth told reporters Tuesday morning. 

While the Army is structured for a force of about 494,000, it currently only has roughly 445,000 active-duty soldiers. Its new plan seeks to fill the ranks over the next five years, getting to an eventual level of 470,000, according to a new service document released Tuesday.

To do that, the service seeks to phase out around 32,000 roles, with about 3,000 cuts from special operations forces and another 10,000 from Stryker brigade combat teams, cavalry squadrons, infantry brigade combat teams and security force assistance brigades, the latter meant to train foreign forces.

In addition, the service found 10,000 engineer jobs and related positions linked to counter-insurgency missions it can cut, it will slash about 2,700 roles from units that don’t usually deploy and it will decrease the number of transients, trainees, holdees and students by approximately 6,300. 

Officials stressed that the planned reductions are “to authorizations (spaces), and not to individual soldiers (faces),” meaning already empty roles. 

“The Army is not asking current soldiers to leave,” the document states. “As the Army builds back end strength over the next few years, most installations will likely see an increase in the number of soldiers actually stationed there.” 

The plan also looks to add back 7,500 troops in missions seen as more critical, such as air-defense and counter-drone units and five new task forces for better capabilities in intelligence, cyber, and long-range strikes.  

Three of the tasks force would fall under U.S. Army Pacific — with the Indo-Pacific theater considered the most important for national security in the years ahead — one will be within U.S. Army Europe-Africa and the last likely focused on U.S. Central Command in the Middle East. 

The plans indicate a major shift within the Army as the military anticipates future conflicts as large-scale operations against more advanced adversaries such as China, Russia, Iran or North Korea. They also reflect the service’s struggles with recruiting, a phenomenon happening across the military.  

The Army for a decade has struggled with recruiting shortfalls, not meeting its annual goal for new enlistment contracts since 2014, according to Wormuth. That means jobs have been left empty due to a lack of warm bodies. 

Last fiscal year, only the Marine Corps and the Space Force met their recruiting targets, while the Army fell 15,000 people short of its 65,000 person goal. 

The year prior, the Army also missed its 60,000 enlistment goal by 15,000.  

Wormuth acknowledged that the recruiting challenges have strained current service members, on full display when she visited with troops at Fort Cavazos, Texas, earlier this summer. 

“They feel like they have very full plates and they are doing the work of one and a half to two soldiers,” she said. “I think that’s a reality. … There’s no doubt that it’s putting some strains on our shoulders.” 

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