Army Is Slashing Thousands of Jobs to Focus on Russia and China

The U.S. Army is cutting 24,000 positions as the Pentagon continues to shift its priority to countering Chinese and Russian military might after two decades of focusing on the fight against terrorism, according to a new Army document.

The cuts are in line with the national defense strategy begun by President Donald J. Trump and largely endorsed by the Biden administration that emphasizes rising threats to the United States from an emboldened Russia and China.

Army numbers swelled to almost 600,000 during the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, but the end of those conflicts has contributed to a steady decrease as soldiers returned to the garrison.

The job cuts, reported earlier by The Associated Press, also implicitly acknowledge the recruiting woes that have plagued the Army — and indeed, other military services — in recent years. The Army, the Navy and the Air Force failed to meet recruiting goals last year. Army officials have been traveling to college campuses in urban areas to try to tap into underrepresented communities for recruits.

The new document says the cuts will “allow the Army to narrow the gap between force structure, which was designed to accommodate 494,000 soldiers, and current active-duty end strength, which is set by law at 445,000.” The goal now, according to the document, will be to bring an Army end strength of 470,000.

Defense Department officials say that several issues have hobbled recruitment. The percentage of young Americans who qualify, and are interested, in military service has dropped, they note. A low unemployment rate has also meant that young people have other options.

“The Army will shrink excess, largely unmanned ‘hollow’ force structure and build new formations equipped with new capabilities needed for large-scale combat operations,” the document said. “By bringing force structure and end strength into closer alignment, the Army will ensure its formations are filled at the appropriate level to maintain a high state of readiness.”

Defense Department officials said last year that the Army planned to cut some 3,000 positions from its Special Operations forces. That number would come out of the 24,000, an official said on Tuesday.

For more than 20 years, American military commanders and senior defense officials have fretted over whether the focus on counterinsurgency fighting had left the military unprepared for a great powers land war.

But even as the Pentagon continues its shift toward the latter, events in the Middle East spurred by the Oct. 7 Hamas attack in Israel and Israel’s resulting campaign of retribution in Gaza have underlined that the Pentagon — and the Army — will have to do both, and probably for years to come.

Pentagon officials say that challenge continues to push a military that is already stretched. Added to that is the uncertainty that has surrounded the Pentagon’s budget since 2011, when mandatory spending caps were put in place.

“The things we are reducing in our formation are actually things that are not going to make us successful on the battlefield going forward,” Gen. Randy George, the Army chief of staff, told reporters on Tuesday at a breakfast hosted by the Defense Writers Group.

He said the Army had other capabilities “we want to grow and add,” including those that help protect troops, and Americans, from drone, rocket and even ballistic missile attacks.

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