The size of the U.S. Army has been reduced to the fewest number of active soldiers in more than 70 years, Army Times reported. After more than 2,500 enlistees ended their service last month, their positions have not been replaced, shrinking the number of soldiers on active duty to less than what it was during World War II. The current number of active troops is slightly more than 479,000 soldiers.
While the smaller number of active soldiers may be surprising to some, it was actually part of a larger plan proposed by the Pentagon in 2014, when then-U.S. Department of Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel looked to slim down the Army's personnel to about 450,000 soldiers by 2018, the BBC reported. By comparison, the Army had nearly 600,000 active troops at the peak of the foreign wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.
The biggest cuts to the Army will come at Fort Benning in Georgia and Joint Base Elmendorf-Richard in Alaska, the Washington Post reported. There are also plans to reduce the number of civilian jobs in the Army by as many as 17,000 positions, noted Brig. Gen. Randy George, the Army’s director of force management.
“The decision to make these cuts is not easy, and will affect just about every Army installation,” George said last summer.
If the cuts go according to schedule, the Army will be trimmed down incrementally, with a goal of having 460,000 soldiers in 2017 and 450,000 by 2018.
The news was most likely not welcomed by Republican presidential presumptive nominee Donald Trump, who announced last summer that one of his first orders of business should he be elected to the White House would be to grow the U.S. military, the New York Daily News reported.
“I want to build up the military so nobody messes with us,” Trump said at the time. “I would bring it [the military staff level] back to where it was at the height, because we’re in such trouble.”