A Pentagon plan to cut tens of thousands of soldiers from the U.S. Army's ranks in coming years goes too far given the growing global threats, including Russian aggression in Ukraine and unrest in Syria and Iraq, a bipartisan review panel says.
In an advance copy of a report, Ensuring a Strong U.S. Defense for the Future, that was obtained by NPR's Tom Bowman, a panel that includes former Defense Secretary William Perry and retired Gen. John Abizaid, who was the top U.S. commander in the Middle East, warns that the proposed cuts are too deep.
"Since World War II, no matter which party has controlled the White House or Congress, America's global military capability and commitment has been the strategic foundation undergirding our global leadership," the report's authors write. "Given that reality, the defense budget cuts mandated by the Budget Control Act (BCA) of 2011, coupled with the additional cuts and constraints on defense management under the law's sequestration provision, constitute a serious strategic misstep on the part of the United States."
"The effectiveness of America's other tools for global influence, such as diplomacy and economic engagement, are critically intertwined with and dependent upon the perceived strength, presence and commitment of U.S. armed forces," they write.
But Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel disagrees with the panel, according to Pentagon spokesman Rear Adm. John Kirby.
The panel endorses the Pentagon's plans in some areas, such as trimming pay and medical benefits, but it says the recommendation to draw down the Army to 450,000 goes too far. Instead, the panel says the Army should not go below 490,000 — the same figure that Army leaders had wanted.