20,000 Marines to be cut, Pentagon announces
By Dan Lamothe - Staff writer
Posted : Thursday Jan 26, 2012 13:45:08 EST
The Marine Corps will slash 20,000 Marines as part of Defense Department-wide budget cuts, reducing its end strength to about 182,000, top Pentagon officials announced Thursday.
The manpower reductions will leave the Corps smaller than Commandant Gen. Jim Amos advocated for over the last year, but larger than some defense analysts had projected. Top Marine officers said last year, following an extensive force structure review, that the Corps could maintain essential capabilities if it was reduced to 186,800 Marines. They later acknowledged cuts would likely be deeper.
The manpower cuts were outlined in documents obtained by Marine Corps Times and its sister publication, Defense News, ahead of a scheduled 2 p.m. press briefing at the Pentagon. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta and Army Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs, spoke. The Army also will slash 80,000 soldiers, leaving about 490,000.
“We are at a strategic turning point after a decade of war and after a very substantial growth in the defense budget,” Panetta said.
The Marine Corps reduction will leave the service smaller than it has been since 2007, when there were about 180,000 Marines on active duty. Defense Secretary Robert Gates announced in December of that year that he wanted to grow the service by an additional 22,000 Marines and make permanent a 5,000-troop increase he already had approved for the Corps as the U.S. fought wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Still, many analysts had predicted that the Corps would face deeper cuts. There were about 173,000 Marines on active-duty in 2001 during the 9/11 terrorist attacks, and it was widely speculated that the service would be reduced to about that size. Avoiding that fate will be greeted as a victory by some advocates of the Corps.
What wasn’t immediately clear is how the Corps will cut the additional 4,800 Marines to drop below the 186,800 end strength it had planned for in the force structure review. That study, released in March, called for a 13 percent drop in ground combat forces, a 16 percent drop in fixed-wing tactical aviation squadrons, a 9 percent drop in logistics, a 7 percent drop in Marines assigned to non-operational jobs and a 12 percent cut to its civilian work force.
In December, the Corps released additional details on how it would cut 15,000 Marines over four years, while warning that more cuts were likely. The deepest reductions in that plan affected the East Coast, with II Marine Expeditionary Force, out of Camp Lejeune, N.C., losing about 7,000 Marines from its ground, aviation and logistics communities.http://www.marinecorpstimes.com/news/2012/01/marine-20000-marines-to-be-cut-012612/