Two Capitol Hill committee chairmen are criticizing an Army plan to cut 40,000 soldiers as the Pentagon tries to meet uncertain and limited defense budgets.
"People who believe the world is safer, that we can do with less defense spending and 40,000 fewer Soldiers, will take this as good news. I am not one of those people," House Armed Services Chairman Mac Thornberry, R-Texas, said in a statement Wednesday.
Troop cuts were initially announced in the budget request the Army released in February, where it planned to take the forces from their current end strength of slightly more than 490,000 to 475,000 by the end of fiscal 2016.
"With global instability only increasing, and with just 33 percent of the Army's brigade combat teams ready for deployment and decisive operations, there is simply no strategic basis to cut Army force structure below the pre-9/11 level of 490,000," Senate Armed Services Chairman John McCain, R-Ariz., said in a statement.
The House and Senate approved the Army's cut to 475,000 and provided funds in the 2016 bill to meet that active-duty end strength level.
The Army had planned to further reduce its end strength to 450,000 soldiers by fiscal 2018. The plan also cuts 17,000 Army civilian employees, something the House Armed Services Committee has pushed for.
The service reached out to members of Congress Wednesday and will outline how it will achieve those cuts at a press briefing Thursday.
Thornberry's office said troop level reductions "are one of the few places where the military can achieve the savings mandated by defense cuts in the time required. The House Armed Services Committee has consistently warned about the size and pace of reductions in both end strength and defense spending and the negative impact on the country's national security."
McCain said the Army plan is "another dangerous consequence of budget-driven strategy."
"Any conceivable strategic rationale for this cut to Army end-strength has been overturned by the events of the last few years from the rise of [the Islamic State], Russia's invasion of Ukraine, the Ebola crisis, and more," McCain said. "Worse, if mindless sequestration cuts are allowed to return, the Army will shrink to 420,000 troops, increasing the risk that in a crisis, we will have too few soldiers who could enter a fight without proper training or equipment."