FORT BRAGG — As the Army reduces troop strength over the next six years, it will focus on keeping the best of the best, Army Secretary John McHugh said Tuesday.
McHugh spoke to reporters at Fort Bragg after a day and a half on the post. He said he had been briefed on the work the 82nd Airborne had done closing out U.S. combat involvement in Iraq and in ongoing efforts in Afghanistan, and about the unique skills of Special Forces soldiers also based at Bragg.
Plans are to reduce the size of the Army from the 558,000 soldiers it had in January to 490,000 by the end of 2017. Other military branches will see cuts as well.
McHugh said he expects most of the losses to occur through attrition. Other reductions will have to be more deliberate, such as the Army declining to renew contracts. Where it has to choose, McHugh said, the Army will strive to keep its best soldiers.
Good will no longer be good enough, he said. Even then, leaders likely will have to cut soldiers who perform well.
Thats painful for all of us, McHugh said, but will be necessary.
Army officials have not said how Fort Bragg, one of the busiest bases in the world, might be affected by the reduction of force.
To satisfy demands of Congress to reduce Pentagon spending by $487 billion over the next 10 years, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta has said he would pursue two more rounds of base realignments and closures, one in 2013 and one in 2015. There have been five BRACs, the last of which was ordered in 2005 and resulted in the relocation of two headquarters elements to Fort Bragg. The moves, completed last fall, brought several thousand new troops and hundreds of millions of dollars in new construction to the base.
Any new base realignments would have to be approved by Congress.
Fort Bragg is now home to about 60,000 soldiers. About 10,000 of those are deployed, most of them in the 20 countries under the U.S. Central Command, which includes Afghanistan and Kuwait.