Top Army general objects to GOP plan to slow troop reductions

Army Chief of Staff Gen. Ray Odierno said Wednesday he’s opposed to a plan from House Republicans to slow the reduction of U.S. forces over the next five years.

The House Armed Services Committee included language in the Defense authorization bill to limit troop reductions to 15,000 per year for the Army and 5,000 for the Marine Corps through 2017, a slower pace than the military had planned for.

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The Army proposed cutting its forces by 72,000 and the Marines 20,000 in the 2013 budget, in part as a result of the drawdowns in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as budget constraints.

Odierno said at a Pentagon press briefing Wednesday that the House proposal is too restrictive for the Army.

“I think what we submitted was the right pace,” Odierno said. “I've talked with the House. I've told them that I don't agree with those amendments. I'd like to see them adjustable.”

The House proposal also required the president to submit a certification to Congress that any reduction in forces would not “undermine the ability of the Armed Forces to meet the requirements of the National Security Strategy; increase security risks for the United States; or compel members of the Armed Forces to endure diminished dwell time and repeated deployments.”

The Obama administration objected to the provisions in the authorization bill, warning that the increased size of the Army and Marines could increase personnel and healthcare costs by $1.9 billion through 2017.

“The timing and pace of the planned reductions to the Army and Marine Corps are tied to anticipated changes in operational demand based on the nation's current commitments as well as the new defense strategy, which emphasizes a smaller and leaner force,” the White House said in a statement.

Odierno said that he was concerned about 2013 in particular, where the House language would cap the size of the Army at 552,000, while they planned to be at 543,000 at the end of 2013.