A Senate Armed Services Airland Subcommittee hearing on Army modernization took a hard turn into the issue of personnel cuts amid growing global threats when LTG Herbert R. McMaster Jr. said plans to cut total Army end strength represent high risk—and quite possibly “unacceptable” risk.
“It’s an unacceptable risk because of a combination of factors,” said McMaster, deputy commanding general, Future forces, of the Army Training and Doctrine Command. “We all recognize that the threats to national and international security are increasing, and many of those threats are interconnected.”
Those threats include “revisionist powers” Russia and China, North Korea and Iran, in addition to the ongoing “transnational terrorist” threat, from ISIS, McMaster said. “As we look at the way threats to our national security are evolving, we need a joint force; that places a very high demand on ready land forces.”
He noted that current end strength plans would shrink the Regular Army to its smallest size since before World War II, at a time when the service has not been heavily modernizing weaponry and equipment. Previous drawdowns, such as after the Vietnam War and the Cold War, occurred after the Army had been “considerably” modernized, he said, and “we are not recently modernized.”
Sen. Tom Cotton, R-Ark., the subcommittee chairman, said lawmakers have discussed a larger active-duty Army—perhaps 480,000 to 490,000 soldiers, but he asked, “what would be the implications if Congress took that step but did not increase funding?” LTG Joe Anderson, Army Deputy Chief of Staff for operations and plans, answered, “The Army will never give up the readiness of its formations; so if you increase the number of soldiers” without an increase in the budget, modernization will take another hit. We can’t stretch out things more than we already have. It would make the problems we have right now even worse.”