Hagel Outlines ‘Worst Case Scenario’ Troop Cuts

Mike O'Brien

Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel this week drew a grim picture for the U.S. military based on the findings of the Pentagon's Strategic Choices and Management Review.

He said if Congress and the White House cannot agree to lift the sequestration deficit-reduction process then the Army would have to shrink from 570,000 to 380,000 troops, with the Marines Corps dropping from 200,000 to 150,000.

The Navy would lose three carriers, and the Air Force would have to start shutting down its B-52 bomber fleet.

Addressing a press conference along with Adm. James Winnefeld, the vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Mr. Hagel said Tricare fees would rise, housing allowances would be cut and both pay raises and commissary subsidies would be hit.

Even the movement of forces to the Pacific to counter the growing might of China would come under the intense scrutiny of budget planners.

Mr. Hagel said the main theme of the review was "maximizing the military's combat power by looking to reduce every other category of spending first."

He said that meant a "basic tradeoff" between the military's "capacity and capability," essentially a choice between troops and new weapons systems.

Defense chiefs who conducted the review favored putting money into cyber warfare, the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter and the Littoral Combat Ship over personnel.

Mr. Winnefeld said the review was the result of a "deep and very painful look into every corner of our institution," adding that "nobody was very happy" with the outcome.

Under sequestration, $500 billion would have come out of defense budgets over the next 10 years. Mr. Hagel and Mr. Winnefeld called on Congress to give the Pentagon more sway by pushing the more drastic reductions to the end of the 10-year cycle, Military.com reports.

Mr. Hagel said: "It is the responsibility of our nation's leadership to work together to replace the mindless and irresponsible policy of sequestration.

"It is unworthy of the service and sacrifice of our nation's men and women in uniform and their families. Even as we confront tough fiscal realities, our decisions must always be worthy of the sacrifices we ask America's sons and daughters to make for our country."

Watch the Pentagon Channel’s video report of the briefing below.