WASHINGTON - The Army will eliminate at least 12 combat brigades, relocate thousands of soldiers and cancel $400 million in construction projects as the first wave of federal budget cuts takes aim at military communities around the country.
In a massive restructuring, Army leaders said Tuesday that they will slash the number of active duty combat brigades from 45 to 33, as the service moves forward with a longtime plan to cut the size of the service by 80,000. And they warned that more cuts - of as many as 100,000 more active duty, National Guard and Reserve soldiers - could be coming if Congress allows billions of dollars in automatic budget cuts to continue next year.
The sweeping changes would eliminate brigades - which number from 3,500 to 5,000 troops - at 10 Army bases in the U.S. by 2017, including those in Texas, Kentucky, Georgia, Colorado, North Carolina, New York, Kansas and Washington. The Army will also cut thousands of other jobs across the service, including soldiers in units that support the brigades, and two brigades in Germany have already been scheduled for elimination.
Gen. Ray Odierno, Army chief of staff, said one additional brigade will likely be cut, but no final decisions have been made.
"I know in the local communities it will have its impact," Odierno told reporters Tuesday. "But we've done our best to reach out to them so they understand what the impacts are. We've tried to make it as small an impact as possible for as many communities as we could."
Members of Congress, meanwhile, expressed concerns about the prospects for greater cuts down the road.
Rep. Howard P. "Buck" McKeon, R-Calif., chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, said his panel "will carefully examine the implications of this initial restructuring, but we all must understand that this is only the tip of the iceberg, much deeper cuts are still to come."