America's emaciated army

Budget cuts have already forced the Army to cut back on training and operations. Odierno told lawmakers last fall that there is less money to prepare deploying soldiers for combat, leaving soldiers across the Army less ready than they have ever been. Last summer, when the Army was still planning on having 490,000 soldiers, the service announced that it would cut 10 brigade combat teams, or BCTs, over four years.

For example, a smaller-sized force fighting in any larger, longer-term contingency operation would be forced to deploy its soldiers on smaller, quicker rotations before the Army could be expanded for the extended mission – or the National Guard or Reserve can be called in. Friction between the Guard and Reserve and the active duty Army has spilled into public recently, with Odierno and Guard and Reserve leaders sniping at each other over the cuts. Many in the active Army fear the politically powerful Guard and Reserve are poised to gain as the active Army shrinks.

Under a smaller Army, one of the Army’s flashiest new concepts – regionalized brigades, in which soldiers receive cultural and language training – would likely be pared back. The implications of a smaller Army may not yet be clear.