A U.S. official says that as part of the proposed 2015 defense budget, Pentagon chief Chuck Hagel is recommending shrinking the Army to its smallest size since before World War II.
Hagel is expected to announce that and other recommendations Monday in a speech at the Pentagon outlining his priorities for next year's defense budget.
Army leaders have been saying for months that they expected to absorb additional troop reductions as the nation prepares to end its combat role in Afghanistan this year. The Army is already scheduled to shrink to 490,000 active-duty members from a wartime peak of 570,000. Hagel is expected to propose cutting it further to between 440,000 and 450,000.
That's according to a defense official who spoke on condition of anonymity because the official was not authorized to be identified discussing the proposals before Hagel's speech.
Hagel also wants to eliminate the fleet of A-10 "tank killer" aircraft, designed in the 1970s to go after targets on the ground. Sen. Kelly Ayotte, R-N.H., whose husband was an A-10 pilot, has already vowed to fight plans to retire the plane.
Also slated for retirement is the U-2 spy plane, the stalwart of Cold War reconnaissance. The military is turning to new methods of surveillance, like the Global Hawk.
Pentagon officials have also made clear that growth in military pay and benefits will also have to be trimmed, but it’s unlikely there would be any reduction in current pay scales or benefits already earned.