US Army to Shrink to Pre-World War II Levels

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Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel speaks during a briefing at the Pentagon.
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Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel speaks during a briefing at the Pentagon.

The Obama administration plans to cut the U.S. Army to its smallest size since before World War II.

Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel called Monday for cutting the Army to between 440,000 and 450,000 troops, from the 570,000 troops it had grown to after the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

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Hagel also said the Air Force’s A-10 attack aircraft fleet will be eliminated, and the U-2 spy plane will be replaced by unmanned drones.

Hagel’s 2015 budget proposal reflects a push to reduce overall government spending as well as an end to the costly wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Hagel says the plan recognizes budget realities while making a modern military better prepared, positioned, and equipped to secure America’s interests in the years ahead.

Analysts say the reductions will result in a military capable of defeating any adversary, but too small for lengthy foreign operations.

Hagel said the reductions would sustain U.S. readiness and technological superiority, and protect priorities in procurement, research, and development.

Hagel also said growth in military pay and benefits will have to be trimmed, but it is unlikely there will be any reduction in current pay scales or benefits already earned.

The proposal is likely to face stiff opposition on Capitol Hill, where lawmakers will battle for every troop, weapons program and dollar, and to preserve military bases and jobs in their political districts.

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