Army leaders say budget cuts are going to hinder the military branch's ability to fight even "one major war," and they're telling the Pentagon the issue must be addressed because another conflict is only a matter of time.
The Army's position was disclosed in a USA Today report citing documents that were sent to the Defense Department as part of the Quadrennial Defense Review, undertaken by the military every four years. The report, however, cited a budget analyst who said the Army can in fact shrink and still be an effective fighting force.
"They will just have to fight differently," the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments' Todd Harrison told the paper. "If you can't even fight one war, what's the point of having an army?"
Service branches have been forced to deal with budget constraints at various times for years, including base closings. President Obama has advocated "smaller, more agile forces," the report notes, though active-duty membership did increase during the Middle East wars. The Army's website says it has about 480,000 active-duty soldiers at this time. In comparison, the Army National Guard has roughly 340,000 soldiers, and the Army Reserve has around 200,000 members.
According to USA Today, the documents say the Army's view is that if it declines in size to 450,000 active-duty soldiers, it would be at "high risk to meet one major war," an event it believes will come to pass.
Citing another budget researcher, Russell Rumbaugh of the Stimson Center, the report said the number of men and women in uniform wasn't the only consideration, although "powerful ground forces" still would be necessary for the military to succeed during wartime. Harrison said the Army could look at new battle methods, such as taking greater advantage of longer-range strike capabilities based around missile warfare.
The Army and the other service branches have clearly gotten higher-tech over the years, and the tools of the soldier in the field can be incredibly advanced. Small, quick-strike units have had several high-profile victories in years past, including recent raids in Libya and Somalia. The headline, undoubtedly, was the killing of al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden in 2011 by a Navy SEAL team. That said, these have been specific missions, meant to be carried out rapidly, rather than lengthy campaigns along the lines of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.