Pentagon Cuts Troops For Gramm-rudman

Posted: December 15, 1989

WASHINGTON — The Pentagon will eliminate 25,000 troops from the Army and Air Force this year as a result of cost reductions mandated, in part, by the Gramm-Rudman- Hollings budget law, officials said yesterday.

That reduction - which is unrelated to eased East-West tensions - will shrink the armed forces to their strength at the dawn of the Reagan administration's military buildup in 1981.

"It's certainly significant to the services, but it's not an enormous bite," Pentagon spokesman Pete Williams said. "My impression is that they will be able to absorb most of these cuts by the ordinary forces of people coming and going in the services - attrition and that sort of thing."

The troop cuts will be evenly divided between the Army and Air Force, with the Navy shouldering its share of the cuts in non-personnel accounts, he said.

The 25,000 cut comes in addition to a congressionally mandated cut of 21,000. The combined number represents just over 2 percent of the nation's 2.1 million soldiers, sailors and airmen.

The cut of 21,000 will come from U.S. forces in Western Europe assigned to handling missile systems eliminated under the U.S.-Soviet intermediate-range nuclear forces treaty. Army officials have told the Los Angeles Times that it also would reduce the number of incoming recruits and offer voluntary early retirement to some senior officers and enlisted men.

The locations of those affected by yesterday's action is not yet known, according to Army Maj. David Super. Defense Secretary Dick Cheney has promised the NATO allies that no further U.S. troops will be withdrawn from Europe except as part of negotiated arms control agreements with the Soviet Union.

The troop reduction announced yesterday is a part of Congress' effort to trim the federal budget deficit this year. Because Congress failed to reach an agreement on that by early October, the Gramm-Rudman-Hollings law required that government departments, including the Pentagon, automatically cut their spending by a certain amount.

Those automatic cuts, which started Oct. 16, could have been rescinded as soon as agreement had been reached on the deficit. But when Congress finally adopted a deficit bill on Nov. 22, lawmakers decided to leave the automatic cuts in effect until early February as a way to further pare the deficit.

The Pentagon's required share of the four months of automatic spending cuts will be $1.7 billion. Spokesman Williams said yesterday's troop cut would account for $200 million of that sum. How the Pentagon makes up the remainder is expected to be announced today.

The Pentagon's latest troop count - 2,127,965 - will fall to 2,081,965 when all of the cuts are implemented before October, the end of the current fiscal year. The Pentagon's troop count in recent years peaked at 2,174,000 in 1987, and has been gradually declining since, Super said.

After World War II and the Korean War, U.S. military personnel peaked at 3.5 million in 1968 at the height of the Vietnam conflict, but otherwise has remained fairly constant at about 2 million, Super said.

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