The U.S. Army will shrink by about 80,000 soldiers by 2017, its top officer said Tuesday, as the military slashes budgets and draws down from a decade of two ground wars overseas.
Gen. Ray Odierno, the Army chief of staff, announced Tuesday afternoon that the service would downsize the number of Brigade Combat Teams from 45 to 33 by 2017, reducing the Army from a high of 570,000 to 490,000 soldiers.
The division of these cuts will be fairly even over armor and infantry brigades across 10 bases, though that balance may shift in the coming years, he said. Despite the cuts, however, Odierno pledged the Army could still defend the country.
"With the forces we have left over, we have more than enough than we need to respond," Odierno told reporters at the Pentagon. He expressed his faith in the Afghan National Security Forces to continue to lead operations in Afghanistan.
Eight Taliban fighters staged a coordinated attack on the Afghan presidential palace Tuesday morning, killing one security guard. Odierno pointed to the attack as an example of the ability of the Afghans to defend the country and respond to violence, though he acknowledged the Taliban's continued capability to pull off such headline-grabbing attacks.
Odierno also warned that more across-the-board sequestration cuts could require further Army reductions.
"The force structure can meet defense strategic guidance," he said of this leaner Army's ability to carry out the Pentagon's planning guidelines. "Sequestration would force another analysis of whether we can meet this strategy or not."
This reduction in soldiers will affect bases in Colorado; Georgia; Kansas; Kentucky; North Carolina; Texas and Washington, Army officials said.