US Army is slashing thousands of jobs in major revamp to prepare for future wars

WASHINGTON — The U.S. military is reducing the size of its force by about 24,000, or nearly 5%, and restructuring it to better fight the next big war, as the service grapples with recruiting shortages that make it impossible made to attract enough soldiers. all jobs.

The cuts will mostly come to already vacant positions — rather than actual soldiers — including counter-insurgency-related jobs that swelled during the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan but are not as desperately needed today. About 3,000 of the cuts would come from the Army’s special operations forces.

At the same time, however, the plan will add approximately 7,500 troops to other critical missions, including air defense and counter-drone units and five new task forces around the world with enhanced cyber, intelligence and long-range strike capabilities.

According to an Army document, the service is “significantly overstructured” and there are not enough soldiers to fill existing units. The cuts, the report said, are “spaces” and not “faces,” and the military will not ask soldiers to leave the force.

Instead, the decision reflects the reality that the military has been unable to fill thousands of empty positions for years. While the military as currently structured can number a maximum of 494,000 soldiers, the total number of active duty soldiers is currently approximately 445,000. Under the new plan, the goal is to bring in enough troops to reach a level of 470,000 over the next five years.

The planned overhaul comes after two decades of war in Iraq and Afghanistan, which forced the army to expand rapidly and dramatically to fill the brigades sent to the front. That included a large-scale counter-insurgency mission to combat al-Qaeda, the Taliban and the Islamic State.

Over time, the military’s focus has shifted to major power competition from adversaries like China and Russia, and threats from Iran and North Korea. And the war in Ukraine has demonstrated the need for greater emphasis on air defense systems and high-tech capabilities, both to use and counter drones in the air and at sea.

Army leaders said they looked carefully at all of the service’s labor specialties, looking for places to trim. And they examined ongoing efforts to modernize the military, with new high-tech weapons, to determine where additional troops should focus.

Under the plan, the military will cut about 10,000 positions for engineers and similar jobs related to counter-insurgency missions. Another 2,700 cuts will come from units that are deployed infrequently and can be shortened, and 6,500 will come from various training and other posts.

About 10,000 posts will also be cut from cavalry squadrons, Stryker brigade combat teams, infantry brigade combat teams and security force assistance brigades, which are used to train foreign troops.

The changes represent a significant shift for the Army to prepare for large-scale combat operations against more advanced enemies. But they also underscore the major recruiting challenges facing all military services.

In the last fiscal year that ended Sept. 30, the Navy, Army and Air Force all failed to meet their recruitment goals, while the Marine Corps and Small Space Force met their goals. The Army brought in just over 50,000 recruits, falling far short of the publicly stated “strech goal” of 65,000.

The previous fiscal year, the Army also missed its enlistment target by 15,000. That year the goal was 60,000.

In response, the agency launched a major overhaul of recruitment last fall to focus more on young people who have spent time in college or are looking for a job early in their careers. And it creates a new professional force of recruiters, rather than relying on soldiers randomly assigned to the task.

Discussing the changes at the time, Army Secretary Christine Wormuth acknowledged that the service “has not been recruiting well for many more years than you would think just by looking at the headlines of the past 18 months.” The agency, she said, has not met its annual target for new hires since 2014.