Pentagon cuts to include trimming troop strength, grounding drones
January 25th, 2012
11:03 PM ET

Pentagon cuts to include trimming troop strength, grounding drones

By CNN Pentagon Producer Larry Shaughnessy

President Barack Obama's plan to cut the defense budget by half a trillion dollars over the coming decade include trimming the Army by at least 38,000 soldiers and grounding of a number of drones, defense officials told CNN Wednesday.

The officials - all of whom spoke on condition of anonymity - laid out details of the cuts, which are to be released Thursday by Defense Secretary Leon Panetta and the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Martin Dempsey.

As part of those cuts, the officials said, the Air Force will ground 30 Global Hawk drones - used for surveillance and reconnaissance - and will not buy new ones. The drones are to be replaced by U-2s, the high-altitude, piloted recon aircraft that have similar capabilities and are paid for.

It was not clear how many aircraft will be cut, the officials said.  But that could be an anomaly in this area as the budget is expected to call for maintaining or increasing the investment in drones, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR),  Special Operations forces and cyber capabilities.

The Navy's number of carriers will drop from 11 to 10 for three years but then return to its previous strength, the officials said. The temporary drop in carrier strength is explained by the fact that the USS Enterprise is to be decommissioned this fall, and the USS Ford is not slated for completion for three years, they said.

In addition, seven old cruisers will be mothballed as will a few old, small, amphibious ships, the officials said.

The Army's troop strength will drop from its current force of 558,000 to 520,000 and perhaps to 490,000, the officials said. Two brigades - a total of 7,000 to 8,000 soldiers - will be moved from Europe to the United States, which would leave about 40,000 soldiers in Europe, they said.

The officials said the Marines, too, would see a reduction in troop strength, but they could not quantify how many would be cut.

The officials described the cuts before Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta's dinner with congressional leaders to preview Thursday's planned announcement.

There may be more cost-cutting ahead. That's because the failure of Congress and the president to come to terms on budget cuts could leave the military on the hook for another $500 billion in automatic reductions.

Early this month, Obama traveled to the Pentagon to unveil his plan for a leaner, cheaper military that he said will retain the nation's ability to fight terrorism and to confront new threats from countries such as China and Iran.

"We are determined to maintain a ready and capable force, even as we reduce our overall capacity," the administration said in a summary of its defense priorities. "Our global responsibilities are significant; we cannot afford to fail."

The strategy is the result of months of study at the Pentagon. And it is a high-stakes, high-wire balancing act by Obama as he faces a more austere budget climate with U.S. demands at home and overseas.

The plan has run into opposition from Republicans on Capitol Hill and Republican presidential candidates concerned about paring the military. In addition, conservative defense analysts say that the plan steps away from the long-time U.S. commitment to be able to wage two major wars simultaneously.

But Panetta has disputed that, saying the nation will retain the capability to defeat more than one adversary at a time.

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Filed under: Air Force • Army • Marines • Military • Navy • Obama • Panetta • Pentagon • Secretary of Defense
soundoff (10 Responses)
  1. Mikeonthemike

    Well... Shaughnessy got one thing right...You're Damn Straight the Republican are gonna Oppose it! U-2 spy planes? Does Obama and Panetta seriously think that's gonna fly?...Global Hawk drones are cheaper, more flexible in tasking, cost less to operate, and are a lot harder to shoot down...The liberal agenda driven goons in the White House this term are on their way out...they're tryong to do as much damage as they can before they're THROWN OUT ...after the next election, you watch, they'll try every sneaky thing they can...just like the recent "recess" appointments...Come on November! ...can't wait 'till we vote these bastards out of office...the Republicans are the party of Hope & Change now...Ronnie Reagan... we need you now!!!

    January 27, 2012 at 3:50 pm | Reply
  2. Chief Pentagon Leaker

    Shame on the intelligence sources for yet more leaking secret information and shame on CNN for reporting it. We don't need to know everything that the military is doing, and if I can read this information then so can any rogue nation. It's despicable how many people charged with security clearance can't keep a secret. Like high school all over again.

    Leaky leak leak.

    January 27, 2012 at 10:38 am | Reply
  3. mipolitic

    well all powers do decline , the british , and soviet powers fell without a shot being fired because of lack of funds to continue. false wars and empire building have proven to do more damage to militay might than the boogie man attack from an other nation. but russia and the british never had terrorist and a iran to deal with when they withdrew there military mechine. we are now watching the usa following british and soviet history. the huge difference is iran will not fade away , iran will surge in its goal of bringing the resolve of the great profit.

    January 26, 2012 at 2:32 pm | Reply
  4. Dean

    Exactly want Obama has always wanted to do. He is cutting off our noses to spite our faces.
    We are entering a time where foriegn armies will have more power then ours. This imposter president has to go and yet our congress is to pansie to impeach him.

    January 26, 2012 at 11:03 am | Reply
    • Reason Prevails

      Educate yourself. We have and will continue to have the largest and most powerful military in the world. We spend 10 times as much as our nearest competitor. The paltry 10 carriers we will have (for a few years) is 8 more than any other nation. As for cutting ground combat troops, even (Republican former SECDEF) Bob Gates says that anyone advocating a land war in this day and age should have his head examined. The future of American security lies in overwhelming Naval power, RPAs (drones), ISR, and special forces.

      January 26, 2012 at 11:23 am | Reply
  5. Palenaka

    It seems to me that our government often bites off its head, when making decisions. What sense does it make to terminate the Global Hawk and ground it, when there are so many ways it could be used? Why throw away all the money spent on this unmanned vehicle... R&D, manufacturing, etc.? The U2 will have immense repair costs and not be up to the standard of the Global Hawk. Why do we have to go backwards in our technology? Is the money cut from the Global Hawk Program to be applied to our economic and new social programs? This cycle seems to be constantly repeated. We spend countless millions developing and researching top rated products and once they show their immense possibilities... what does our government do? Why of course, they terminate the program and go back to the drawing board.

    January 26, 2012 at 1:59 am | Reply
    • Dixie Normous

      I'm making a new drinking game where everyone takes a sip for every question mark you use.

      January 26, 2012 at 4:20 am | Reply
      • Chris USMC

        Dixie, good to see that a grammar editor is trolling the forums. Content is always a bit more important then grammar. 😉 As long as the person isnt speaking about "pwn1nG no0bs", I am okay with reading their responses. The global Hawk has a great range of capability and in many ways he is right......the U2 is outdated and makes no sense with sustainability. Bottom line, the Global Hawk is more cost effective..(and you dont lose pilots for that matter). Don't let your worship of Obama and editorial OCD tendancies cloud your remarks. ;D Oh wait, liberals (and the right for that matter) aren't capable of being objective about something.

        January 26, 2012 at 8:21 am |
      • Reason Prevails

        Chris, no matter what other points you may have, you sound like a complete moron once you make blanket statements about "liberals." BTW, just for fun, let's pretend the AF know better than you how to allocate its funds.

        January 26, 2012 at 11:27 am |

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