To avoid creating a hollow force, the U.S. Defense Department is not protecting force structure at the expense of needed training and gear, according to a fiscal 2013 budget preview.
The U.S. Army will be reduced from 547,000 active-duty soldiers to 490,000, while the U.S. Marine Corps will be cut to 182,000.
The Army also plans to remove at least eight brigade combat teams from its existing force structure.
“Even with these reductions, the Army and Marine Corps will be larger than they were in 2001,” the document, titled “Defense Budget Priorities and Choices,” reads. It includes the investment decisions that Defense Secretary Leon Panetta and Army Gen. Martin Demspey, Joint Chiefs of Staff chairman, are highlighting during their Jan. 26 press briefing.
The reductions in force size also require a corresponding reduction in the military’s facilities resources, the document says.
Therefore, the president will request that Congress authorize use of the Base Realignment and Closure process with a goal of identifying savings “that can be reinvested in higher priorities as soon as possible.”
As for overseas basing, the document says the Army and Marine Corps will sustain force structure in the Pacific, while “maintaining persistent presence” in the Middle East.
The Pentagon has budgeted to forward-station littoral combat ships in Singapore and patrol craft in Bahrain.
It has also provided funding for a new “afloat forward staging base that can be dedicated to support missions in areas where ground-based access is not available, such as counter-mine operations.”
The Army will reduce its current footprint in Europe by two heavy brigades, while establishing and maintaining a new rotational presence in Europe.
To reduce projected spending by $487 billion over the next 10 years, the Pentagon is eliminating what it describes as “poorly performing programs” and has identified an additional $60 billion in efficiencies. The first tranche of those spending cuts — $259 billion — will come over the next five years.
These spending targets conform to the initial spending caps outlined in the Budget Control Act Congress passed in August.
However, they do not take into account the possibility of sequestration, which would initiate an additional $500 billion cut in January 2013 if Congress does not find an alternative way to reduce the country’s deficit.
The five-year spending plan also reflects the new strategic guidance, released Jan. 5, by shifting focus from today’s wars in Iraq and Afghanistan to preparing for future challenges. That strategy called for a shift in geographic focus toward the Asia-Pacific region, while maintaining influence in the Middle East.
In 2013, the Pentagon is requesting $525 billion for its base budget, with an additional $88.4 billion for overseas contingency operations. Today’s five-year spending plan projects the Defense Department will need $567 billion for its base budget in 2017.
The document describes the investment choices as “hard but manageable” and it places the budget in a historical context, saying that after every major conflict, the U.S. has experienced “significant budget drawdowns.”
With the Defense Department shifting its focus to the Asia-Pacific region, the Air Force will maintain the current strategic bomber fleet and will also fund a new bomber program, according to the document.
By doing so, the Pentagon has decided to protect all three legs of the nuclear triad. However, the Navy will have to delay its Ohio-class ballistic-missile submarine replacement by two years.
“An ongoing White House review of nuclear deterrence will address the potential for maintaining our deterrent with a different nuclear force,” the document says.
The Navy and Marines will also retain their air-power assets, with the sea services retaining all 11 aircraft carriers, 10 carrier air wings, and all of the amphibious assault ships.
All three F-35 Joint Strike Fighter variants are safe, but the Pentagon has decided to slow down procurement to allow for more testing.
DoD will also invest in new air-to-air missiles and new radars for tactical aircraft and ships.
The department will also fund more electronic warfare and communications capabilities.
The Navy will build a new “prompt strike option” from submarines and will add cruise missile capacity to its Virginia-class boats.
The Air Force will lose six tactical fighter squadrons and a training squadron, while the Navy loses seven Ticonderoga-class cruisers, one of which has missile defense capability, but which needs a lot of repairs, the document says.
One big-deck amphibious ship and a submarine will be delayed. Two smaller amphibious dock landing ships will be decommissioned and their replacements delayed.
The Navy also loses eight joint high speed vessels and two littoral combat ships.
The Air Force is losing the Block 30 version of the Global Hawk, but other variants, namely the Navy’s RQ-4N and Air Force’s Block 40, are safe.
Air mobility takes a hit with 27 C-5A Galaxy airlifters being retired along with 65 older C-130s. The entire C-27 fleet of 38 cargo aircraft is also being scrapped by the Air Force.
However, there will also be investment in advance unmanned aircraft, and the Air Force will gain the capability to operate 65 Predator/Reaper patrols and surge to 85 when needed. Today, the Air Force can fly 61 orbits continuously.
For the Army, the Pentagon has curtailed the Joint Land Attack Cruise Missile Defense Elevated Netted Sensor System, a floating missile defense sensor.
The Joint-Air-to-Ground-Missile’s funding has been reduced, with money kept in the budget to find a lower cost alternative.
The Army will cancel its effort to recapitalize its Humvee fleet and will instead focus resources on the Joint Light Tactical Vehicle.