US military prepares to shed 100,000 troopsby Nick Allen, telegraph.co.uk
January 26th 2012
As the debt-ridden US winds down from a decade of war, the cuts would see the Army shrink from a high of 570,000 in 2010 to 490,000 by 2017. The Marine Corps would drop from its high of 202,000 to 182,000. Both would remain at a slightly higher level than they were on September 11, 2001.
The Navy would keep a fleet of 11 aircraft carriers but retire seven cruisers earlier than planned, and delay purchase of other ships. Introduction of F-35 stealth fighter jets would be delayed, six of the Air Force's tactical-air fighter squadrons would be eliminated and 130 cargo aircraft would be retired.
The planned cuts are part of a major strategic review which will see America abandon its traditional capability of fighting two major wars at once, becoming a "leaner and smarter" fighting force with an emphasis on counter terrorism, reconnaissance and cyber warfare, the Pentagon said.
In one of the most significant strategy shifts since the end of the Second World War, the US will also turn its focus away from Europe towards the Asian Pacific region to counter the rising influence of China.
The proposed spending cuts set the stage for a new struggle between President Barack Obama's administration and Congress over how much the Pentagon should spend on national security.
The cuts would represent less than 10 per cent of the current annual defence budget of $650 billion and US spending would still be larger than that of the next 10 countries combined.
In a bid to pre-empt election-year Republican criticism, Defence Secretary Leon Panetta said the plan shifts the Pentagon's focus from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan to future challenges in Asia, the Midddle East and in cyberspace. More special operations forces like the Navy Seals who killed Osama bin Laden will be available around the world, he said.
Mr Panetta said: "This will be a test of whether reducing the deficit is about talk or action. We are at a strategic turning point after a decade of war and substantial growth in defence budgets." The Defence Department's budget accounts for about 20 per cent of total US federal spending.
Some Republicans sharply criticised the plan. Senator John McCain said it "ignored the lessons of history" by imposing massive military cuts.
And Senator John Cornyn, a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee that will hold hearings on the Pentagon's budget plan, said: "Taking us back to a pre-9/11 military force structure places our country in grave danger."
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