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Top Army Officer Says Force Numbers Likely to Shrink

Photo: Navy Petty Officer 1st Class Chad J. McNeeley

Defense budget cuts will likely shrink the Army below 520,000 active duty soldiers, the Army chief of staff said Monday.

At the Association of the U.S. Army’s annual meeting, Gen. Raymond Odierno also said the service should prepare for a wide range of missions as force numbers reduce. The Army plans to shrink from 570,000 to 520,000 over the next several years.

“If you’re asking me, do I think we’ll go below 520… probably,” Odierno said. “But, do I know what that number’s going to look like, I do not.”

The Army’s force level was at 480,000 prior to the terror attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. The Army quickly grew to 570,000 as the U.S. started fighting the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, and Odierno said the Army must be prepared to step up in situations like those.

“My point is we have to be ready for all contingencies, because we are terrible at predicting the future,” Odierno said. “It’s incumbent on us, as an army, to ensure that we have a force that’s ready to deal with these unknown contingencies.”

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