Nearly 30,000 soldiers must be removed from the active rolls in the next 17 months if the Army is to make the first waypoint in a drawdown that eventually will reduce the force to 450,000, or even 420,000, soldiers.
As of April 1, there were 519,786 troopers on active duty, according to the most recent accounting of Regular Army strength by the Defense Manpower Data Cnter.
The personnel total includes 4,000 West Point cadets and several hundred soldiers who are processing for separation because of physical disability, and several hundred others who have been identified for involuntary separation or retirement because of indiscipline or selection by force reduction boards.
Since the beginning of the drawdown in October 2012, Army strength dropped from 550,000 to 530,000 by the end of fiscal 2013.
Budget projections indicate the Army will end fiscal 2014 on Sept. 30 with 510,000 soldiers. With that level of manning, the service will have to cut the active force by 20,000 soldiers in 2015.
Sources say about 15 percent of the annual reduction will be achieved through involuntary separations generated by the 2014 Qualitative Service Program boards for NCOs, and the officer separation boards that met in April for captains and majors in overstrength year groups.
Involuntary separations generally do not take effect until several months after Pentagon officials approve the results of selection-out boards.
Because of budget pressures, the pace of the ongoing drawdown has been accelerated, so that active component manning is slated to hit 490,000 by the end of fiscal 2015, which is 23,000 fewer soldiers than previously planned.
In budget testimony and documents presented to Congress early this spring, Army leaders indicated the drawdown will continue through the end of 2017, when manning will hit 450,000 to 440,000.
If lawmakers do not ease the threat of further cuts, called sequestration, the active component could reach 420,000 by the end of the decade, according to Pentagon sources.
The Army’s drawdown strategy features a combination of reduced recruiting and re-enlistment missions, early outs for short-timers who are headed to college or are in units scheduled for inactivation, and strict enforcement of disciplinary and performance standards. The strategy also includes selective early retirement and reduction-in-force boards for officers, and separation and early retirement boards for NCOs who are in overstrength career fields and specialties.
Chief of Staff Gen. Raymond Odierno and other Army leaders say the Army does not plan to offer voluntary separation incentives during the current drawdown, as was done during the force reduction of the 1990s after the Cold War.
NUMBERS BY RANK
Regular Army soldiers in each rank, as of March 31:
|Sgt. 1st Class||40,122|