Pentagon chief Chuck Hagel has unveiled plans to shrink the US Army to what is expected to be its smallest size since before World War Two.
An entire class of Air Force attack jets was tipped to be axed under the plans, as Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel outlines his 2015 budget.
Chuck Hagel is expected to propose trimming the active-duty Army to between 440,000 and 450,000 personnel.
The US military is under pressure to downsize after two costly foreign wars.
The number of active-duty US Army members is already expected to be pared down to 490,000, as the US prepares to end its combat role in Afghanistan later this year.
Referring to budget pressures, Chuck Hagel said at the Pentagon on Monday: “The reality of reduced resources and a changing strategic environment requires us to prioritize and make difficult choices.”
Noting there are currently about 520,000 active-duty US Army members, Chuck Hagel will also say according to prepared remarks: “Since we are no longer sizing the force for prolonged stability operations, an Army of this size is larger than required to meet the demands of our defense strategy.”
The proposed Army staffing levels would be the lowest since before the US entered World War Two in 1940, when 267,000 active-duty members were employed.
By the end of that conflict, 8.2 million active-duty US Army members were employed.
The figure peaked at 1.6 million both during the Korean War, in 1952, and during the Vietnam War, in 1968.
The number was 482,000 in 2000, a year before the attacks of September 11, 2001.
After those attacks, the force peaked at 566,000 in 2010.
The Wall Street Journal reported that Chuck Hagel will also recommend reducing housing allowances and other benefits, limiting pay raises and increasing healthcare premiums.
However, the military cost-cutting drive could well cause ructions on Capitol Hill, which is gearing up for November’s midterm elections.
The plan is said to take into account government cutbacks as well as President Barack Obama’s pledge to end land wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Under the proposed cuts, the military would still be able to defeat any adversary, unnamed officials told that newspaper, but be too small to engage in protracted foreign occupations.
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