WASHINGTON D.C. – Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said Monday that the Army must shrink to pre-World War II troop levels to preserve funding for elite counterterrorism operations and maintain the cybersecurity programs needed to counter threats by emerging rivals such as China.
In the first major strategy proposal put forth by Mr. Hagel since he took over as the Obama administration’s defense boss a year ago, the former Republican senator outlined a wide-ranging restructuring of the Pentagon budget over the coming five years.
The changes represent the U.S. military’s attempts to come to terms with fiscal pressures felt across government.
At its core, Mr. Hagel’s plan would pave the way for the U.S. to begin in earnest a much-anticipated and long-term shift from the ground war footing and manpower-heavy troop buildups that have dominated so much of the nation’s military spending since the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.
With the proposal also arriving before the military pullout from Afghanistan, the White House is expected to put its full and formal weight behind the restructuring plan when it unveils its 2015 budget next week.
While the proposal drew almost immediate heat from conservative analysts and lawmakers, Mr. Hagel told reporters at the Pentagon that he and his advisers would push for “further reductions in troop strength and force structure in every military service — active and reserve — in order to sustain our readiness and technological superiority, and to protect critical capabilities like special operations forces and cyber resources.”