By Jeremy Herb
The Army is planning to cut at least eight brigades and 80,000 troops as it trims its budgets, U.S. officials confirmed Wednesday.
The new brigade cuts, which will happen over several years, will reduce the number of Army troops to 490,000 from a high of 570,000. The cuts, first reported by The Associated Press, could reduce the number of brigades from 45 to as low as 32.
The overall 2013 Pentagon base budget will be $524 billion, according to congressional officials and analysts, which is a reduction of $7 billion from the 2012 budget Congress approved last month.
Defense Secretary Leon Panetta and Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Martin Dempsey are announcing some details of the 2013 budget in a Thursday press conference. The announcement is being made ahead of the full release of the 2013 budget on Feb. 13.
The president laid out a new strategy for the U.S. military earlier this month, which he said would result in a leaner, more agile force structure. He said that the United States was shifting its focus to the Asia-Pacific region, where air and sea power from the Navy and Air Force are more necessary than ground troops.
The end of the Iraq War and the drawdown of troops in Afghanistan will further ease the need to keep the large ground force presence. The new military strategy ends the U.S. commitment to be ready to fight two large-scale wars at once, although Pentagon officials say they would be able to build forces up quickly if necessary.
The AP reported that the reduction in brigades, which generally contain between 3,500 to 5,000 soldiers, would result in adding one 600- to 800-soldier battalion to Army brigades.