Fort Campbell will definitely be affected by defense budget cuts announced Monday by Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel. The Pentagon's budget for 2015, that will be released next week, calls for total expenditures of 496 billion dollars, which is about the same as the current year budget. The cuts come as the Pentagon is already dealing with nearly a trillion dollars in budget cuts over a decade.
Although Hagel wasn't specific about what units would be affected, he did say troop numbers would be reduced to between 440 and 450-thousand troops. The force reductions will shrink U S troop numbers to the lowest level since before World War II.
Meanwhile Secretary Hagel said military personnel will receive a one percent pay raise. He also said the military will slow the growth of military housing allowances, reduce annual support of commisaries and reform the Tricare military health insurance program for military family members and retirees.
And the budget cuts include phasing out the A-10 "Warthog", which will allow continued funding for a new generation of military aircraft.
Former Fort Campbell and 101st Commander General John Campbell, who now serves as Vice Chief of Staff of the U S Army, is expected to discuss the impact of budget cuts Tuesday on troops at Fort Campbell, Fort Knox and other Army bases.
Below are the some of the recommendations announced by Secretary Hagel, including troop level reductions:
For the Air Force, an emphasis on capability over capacity meant that we protected its key modernization programs, including the new bomber, the Joint Strike Fighter, and the new refueling tanker. We also recommended investing $1 billion in a promising next-generation jet engine technology, which we expect to produce sizeable cost-savings through reduced fuel consumption and lower maintenance needs. This new funding will also help ensure a robust industrial base, a very strong and important industrial base itself a national strategic asset.
To fund these investments, the Air Force will reduce the number of tactical air squadrons including the entire A-10 fleet. Retiring the A-10 fleet saves $3.5 billion over five years and accelerates the Air Force's long-standing modernization plan which called for replacing the A-10s with the more capable F-35 in the early 2020s.
The "Warthog" is a venerable platform, and this was a tough decision. But the A-10 is a 40-year-old single-purpose airplane originally designed to kill enemy tanks on a Cold War battlefield. It cannot survive or operate effectively where there are more advanced aircraft or air defenses. And as we saw in Iraq and Afghanistan, the advent of precision munitions means that many more types of aircraft can now provide effective close air support, from B-1 bombers to remotely piloted aircraft. And these aircraft can execute more than one mission.
The A-10's age is also making it much more difficult and costly to maintain. Significant savings are only possible through eliminating the entire fleet, because of the fixed cost of maintaining the support apparatus associated with that aircraft. Keeping a smaller number of A-10s would only delay the inevitable while forcing worse trade-offs elsewhere.
In addition to the A-10, the Air Force will also retire the 50-year-old U-2 in favor of the unmanned Global Hawk system. This decision was a close call, as DoD had previously recommended retaining the U-2 over the Global Hawk because of cost issues. But over the last several years, DoD has been able to reduce the Global Hawk's operating costs. With its greater range and endurance, the Global Hawk makes a better high-altitude reconnaissance platform for the future.
The Air Force will slow the growth in its arsenal of armed unmanned systems that, while effective against insurgents and terrorists, cannot operate in the face of enemy aircraft and modern air defenses. Instead of increasing to a force of 65 around-the-clock combat air patrols of Predator and Reaper aircraft, the Air Force will grow to 55, still a significant increase. Given the continued drawdown in Afghanistan, this level of coverage will be sufficient to meet our requirements, and we would still be able to surge to an unprecedented 71 combat air patrols under the plan. DoD will continue buying the more capable Reapers until we have an all-Reaper fleet.
If sequestration-level cuts are re-imposed in 2016 and beyond, however, the Air Force would need to make far more significant cuts to force structure and modernization. The Air Force would have to retire 80 more aircraft, including the entire KC-10 tanker fleet and the Global Hawk Block 40 fleet, as well as slow down purchases of the Joint Strike Fighter resulting in 24 fewer F-35s purchased through Fiscal Year 2019 and sustain ten fewer Predator and Reaper 24-hour combat air patrols. The Air Force would also have to take deep cuts to flying hours, which would prevent a return to adequate readiness levels.
Navy and Marine Corps:
Next, the Navy:Under the President's budget plan, the Navy will launch an aggressive and ambitious effort to reduce acquisitions costs and maximize resources available to buy and build new ships. This will enable our ship inventory to continue to grow over the next five years to support the global demands for naval presence.
The spending levels proposed under the President's budget plan would also enable the Navy to maintain 11 carrier strike groups. However, we will have to make a final decision on the future of the George Washington aircraft carrier in the 2016 budget submission. If sequestration spending levels remain in place in Fiscal Year 2016, she would need to be retired before her scheduled nuclear refueling and overhaul. That would leave the Navy with 10 carrier strike groups. But keeping the George Washington in the fleet would cost $6 billion so we would have no other choice than to retire her should sequestration-level cuts be re-imposed. At the President's budget level, we would pay for the overhaul and maintain 11 carriers.
In order to help keep its ship inventory ready and modern under the President's plan, half of the Navy's cruiser fleet or eleven ships will be "laid up" and placed in reduced operating status while they are modernized, and eventually returned to service with greater capability and a longer lifespan. This approach enables us over the long-term to sustain and modernize our fleet of cruisers, which are the most capable ships for controlling the air defense of a carrier strike group.
Overall, the Navy's fleet will be significantly modernized under our plan, which continues buying two destroyers and two attack submarines per year, as well as one additional Afloat Staging Base. We have preserved the fleet's modernization programs and provided for increases in ship inventory over the next five years.
Regarding the Navy's Littoral Combat Ship, I am concerned that the Navy is relying too heavily on the LCS to achieve its long-term goals for ship numbers. Therefore, no new contract negotiations beyond 32 ships will go forward. With this decision, the LCS line will continue beyond our five-year budget plan with no interruptions.
The LCS was designed to perform certain missions such as mine sweeping and anti-submarine warfare in a relatively permissive environment. But we need to closely examine whether the LCS has the independent protection and firepower to operate and survive against a more advanced military adversary and emerging new technologies, especially in the Asia Pacific. If we were to build out the LCS program to 52 ships, as previously planned, it would represent one-sixth of our future 300-ship Navy. Given continued fiscal restraints, we must direct future shipbuilding resources toward platforms that can operate in every region and along the full spectrum of conflict.
Additionally, at my direction, the Navy will submit alternative proposals to procure a capable and lethal small surface combatant, generally consistent with the capabilities of a frigate. I've directed the Navy to consider a completely new design, existing ship designs, and a modified LCS. These proposals are due to me later this year in time to inform next year's budget submission.
If sequestration spending levels return in 2016 and beyond, we will be forced into much tougher decisions on the Navy surface fleet. Six additional ships would have to be laid up, and we would have to slow the rate at which we buy destroyers. The net result of sequestration-level cuts would be ten fewer large surface combatant ships in the Navy's operational inventory by 2023. Under sequestration spending levels, the Navy would also halt procurement of the carrier variant of the Joint Strike Fighter for two years.
The Marine Corps' inherent agility, crisis response capabilities, and maritime focus make it well-suited to carry out many priority missions under the President's defense strategy. Accordingly, if the President's budget levels are sustained for the next five years, we could avoid additional reductions in end strength beyond those already planned. Today the Marines number about 190,000, and they will draw down to 182,000. If sequestration-level cuts are re-imposed in 2016 and beyond, the Marines would have to shrink further to 175,000. Under any scenario, we will devote about 900 more Marines to provide enhanced embassy security around the world.
Finally, the Army:We seek a highly ready and capable Army, able to dominate any opponent across the full spectrum of operations. To achieve this, the Army must accelerate the pace and increase the scale of its post-war drawdown. Today, there are about 520,000 active-duty soldiers, which the Army had planned to reduce to 490,000. However, the Strategic Choices and Management Review and the QDR both determined that since we are no longer sizing the force for prolonged stability operations, an Army of this size is larger than required to meet the demands of our defense strategy. Given reduced budgets, it is also larger than we can afford to modernize and keep ready. We have decided to further reduce active-duty Army end-strength to a range of 440,000-450,000 soldiers.
I have also accepted the Army's recommendations to terminate the current Ground Combat Vehicle program and re-direct the funds toward developing a next-generation platform. I have asked the leadership of the Army and the Marine Corps to deliver new, realistic visions for avehicle modernization by the end of this fiscalyear.
The changes to end strength would result in a smaller Army, but would help ensure the Army remains well-trained and clearly superior in arms and equipment. While this smaller capacity entails some added risk, even if we execute extended or simultaneous ground operations, our analysis showed that this force would be capable of decisively defeating aggression in one major combat theater as it must be while also defending the homeland and supporting air and naval forces engaged in another theater against an adversary. If sequestration-level cuts are re-imposed in 2016, the active dutyArmy would have to draw down to an end strength of 420,000 soldiers.
The Army National Guard and Reserves will also draw down in order to maintain a balanced force. Today, the Army National Guard numbers about 355,000 soldiers and the Reserves about 205,000 soldiers. By 2017, under our recommendations, there would be 335,000 soldiers in the Army National Guard force structure and 195,000 in the Reserves. If sequestration returns in 2016, the Army National Guard would continue drawing down further, to 315,000. Army Reserves would draw down to 185,000.
We have protected the National Guard and Reserves from cuts to the extent possible, but to maintain a ready and capable force at a time of fiscal constraints, no component of DoD can be entirely exempted from reductions.
This five percent recommended reduction in Guard and Reserve soldiers is smaller than the 13 percent reduction in active-duty soldiers. I'm mindful that many in the Guard and Reserve community and in Congress have argued that the reserve component should be protected from cuts because they provide more troops at lower cost. If our priority was having the largest possible force in the event of a large-scale, prolonged war, that would be reasonable. However, our defense strategy calls for more than that. Surge capacity is just one factor, as we must prioritize readiness, capability, and agility. And while it is true that reserve units are less expensive when they are not mobilized, our analysis shows that a reserve unit is roughly the same cost as an active duty unit when mobilized and deployed.
Guardsmen and Reservists performed well in Iraq and Afghanistan. We could not have achieved what we did in either place without them. But experience shows that specialties requiring greater collective training to achieve combat proficiency and service integrationshould reside in the full-time force, where these capabilities will be more ready and available to commanders. What best serves our national security is when Guard and Reserve units complement the active force.
That's why we've recommended Army Guard Apache attack helicopters be transferred to active-duty units. The Active Army will transfer Blackhawk helicopters to the National Guard, where they will bolster the Guard's needed capabilities in areas like disaster relief and emergency response.
These changes to the Guard's helicopter fleet are part of a broader realignment of Army aviation designed to modernize its fleet and make it highly capable and more affordable. The force will retire its Kiowas, and the "JetRanger" training helicopters used at Fort Rucker. The Active Army's overall fleet would decrease by about 25 percent, but it would be significantly modernized under the President's budget plan.
The Guard's fleet of helicopters would decline by eight percent, but it would gain new Blackhawks and the Army will sustain the Guard's fleet of Light Utility Helicopters. If sequestration-level cuts are re-imposed in 2016, the Army would have to cut 50 of these helicopters from the Guard force.
While any force reduction has some risk, the future Guard helicopter force will still serve as an important operational and strategic complement to our active duty force, while also being equipped for state and federal requirements for homeland defense, disaster relief, and support to civil authorities.