Details of the Military Force Reduction

As part of an overall force reduction due to federal budget constraints, the U.S. military has been forced to cut members. The Marines, Air Force, and Army have all been affected and have begun a significant Reduction in Force (RIF).

Here’s what you need to know about what’s happening with the military regarding the reduction.

The What

Over the summer, the Pentagon released a plan detailing cuts to the military that were to begin in fiscal year 2016. The federal government’s fiscal year began on October 1st, so those cuts are currently underway.

The Army was by far the hardest hit of the military branches as a result of these constraints. The Department of the Army announced a reduction of 40,000 by the end of fiscal year 2018, eventually reducing the total force from 490,000 to 450,000. In addition to a reduction in active duty members, the Army will be cutting 17,000 civilian jobs from the payroll.

The Marines are currently in a holding pattern while their status is being reviewed at each budget cycle, but under sequestration, the force could be reduced from 184,000 to 175,000.

Meanwhile, the Air Force is the smallest it’s been since it was established in 1947 and the threat of further cuts is real.

The Why

In remarks to the Association of the U.S. Army Annual Convention, U.S. Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter noted that for the seventh consecutive year, Congress has failed to pass a bill that appropriates defense funds in time for the start of the fiscal year.

“And for the past four years, the Department of Defense and other federal agencies have been struggling against the impacts of sequestration. The Department of Defense has done its best to manage through this prolonged period of budget uncertainty, making painful choices and tradeoffs between size, capabilities, and readiness of the joint force,” said Carter.

Budget sequestration puts a hard cap on government spending, which forces all parts of the government to act within a constrained budget. This has caused the military to reduce active duty numbers and costs; as Carter said the sequestration budget would be $38 billion short of what he and the Joint Chiefs have determined is needed.

U.S. Congressman and Chairman of the House Armed Services Committee Mac Thornberry’s office released a statement voicing his displeasure of the cuts, while noting that, “Personnel reductions are one of the few places where the military can achieve the savings mandated by defense cuts in the time required.”

The How

Ryan Guina, a military veteran and founder of The Military Wallet, explains, “reduction in force [occurs] when they’ve been mandated by Congress to reduce overall numbers. Force shaping is when they’re going in there more like with a scalpel and picking and choosing who they’re getting rid of.”

Both methods are being used in order to achieve the requisite end numbers mandated by the budget cuts. In many cases, the army is offering voluntary early retirement, but they are also being very strict with reenlistment. In some cases they are not allowing reenlistment because there are no jobs left at a certain rank, as the military is limiting career fields.

Other service members are essentially being forced out or selectively trimmed because they’ve failed to meet some standard or haven’t been promoted within a set time period, according to Guina. Those who are told they will not be allowed to reenlist have some time to prepare, since they could have up to a year until the end of their enlistment; while someone being forced out could have as little as 30 days.