Building a Smarter, Smaller Army

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Army photo / Spc. Bethany Little

An 82nd Airborne paratrooper in training.

It’s time to resize the U.S. Army given the nation’s fiscal realities and what we’re likely to need it to do in the foreseeable future.

In my new book, Healing the Wounded Giant: Maintaining Military Preeminence While Cutting the Defense Budget, I argue for a modestly smaller Army, relative to current capabilities, as well as current plans for the future Army force.

It is bigger, however, than some advocate, or than would likely result under sustained sequestration.

The recommended size of 450,000 active-duty soldiers (down from the current 538,000) is based on my assessment of what would be required for a ‘1+2’ mission capability:

— The ‘1’ is a major theater war (like Korea).

— The ‘2’ is a realistic and historically-based assessment of the number of substantial, if smaller, multilateral operations that the United States might participate within at a given time. They might including a post-2014 mission in Afghanistan, or a notional stabilization role in a place like Syria.

I elaborate on these ideas in this excerpt from the second chapter here.

Michael E. O’Hanlon is the director of research for foreign policy at the Brookings Institution, where he holds the Sydney Stein Jr. Chair and is a senior fellow with the Center on 21st Century Security and Intelligence (21CSI).