The Drawdown Deepens

The Drawdown Deepens

Source: DoD release, March 27, 1993


here's a saying in the military that no battle plan ever survives the firing of the first shot. After weighing in on the divisive issue of restructuring and shrinking America's military and defense-industrial base, President Bill Clinton might well say the same thing about campaign plans.

Take, for instance, Clinton's campaign assertion that reducing the Defense Department's active-duty force to 1.4 million troops could be accomplished by cutting only $ 62 billion from the Bush Administration's Pentagon budget plan in the next four years. It turns out that the cut was understated, as Defense Secretary Les Aspin confirmed on March 27. Aspin projected a cut of $ 88 billion, with some of the added reduction needed to offset unachievable savings that the Bush Administration had projected would flow from management reforms.

The additional cuts will have to be taken from military pay, training, weapons procurement or other Pentagon accounts. And the cutting may not stop with the $ 88 billion Aspin mentioned: Some say the cuts will top the $ 100 billion mark when more detailed versions of the budget are released later this year.

The Clinton campaign's battle plan, moreover, did not reckon with world developments or congressional foot-dragging. Now it appears that the Somalia deployment, events in the former Yugoslavia and disarray in Russia may require more resources. Both Senate Minority Leader Robert Dole, R-Kan., and Senate Armed Services Committee chairman Sam Nunn, D-Ga., have suggested that Clinton has cut too deeply into the nation's defense capabilities. Even archdove Ronald V. Dellums, D-Calif., the new chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, has voiced protest -- albeit only out of parochial concern for cuts Aspin has aimed at military bases in his San Francisco Bay district.

As if these conflicting strains did not make rational planning difficult enough, military leaders must also anticipate the findings of the independent Base Closure and Realignment Commission, which has until June 30 to accept or modify Aspin's base realignment plans before sending its list to Clinton, who in turn will forward it to Congress for an up-or-down vote.

Leaders of the armed services, of course, have long been coping with the downward trends in budget and manpower that Clinton's election served to accelerate. For them, the advent of Clinton and Aspin means a bit more pain in an already difficult drawdown, as detailed in the following service-by-service review.


When they see news reports on the latest base closure announcements or plans by the new administration to cut defense, many Army officials are amazed at a tone that seems to suggest that the drawdown is just beginning.

"Whenever there's a new administration in the White House, there's always a psychological sense of a new beginning," says Gen. David Meade, the Army's director of plans and policy. "So most Americans probably aren't aware that last year alone we took 72,000 soldiers out of Europe alone, along with their spouses, children, dogs, cats, parakeets, furniture and cars.

"But if you're a sergeant 1st class in Germany, and your unit's gone away, and you've transferred to Fort Hood, Texas, while your wife remains in Europe so your son can finish his senior year in high school, you already know all about change. And it hits hard when you hear someone on TV say, 'Gee, the Army has got to start shrinking.'"

Specifically, the Army has cut its active forces by 25 percent since 1990 and expects to be down by 32 percent by the end of 1995. It has deactivated one corps and four divisions, on its way down from a force of 18 active divisions with 781,000 troops in 1990, to one of 12 active divisions numbering 536,000 by 1995. At present the Army is slightly ahead of schedule with active-duty end-strength having aleady fallen below 600,000, making today's Army the smallest since 1950. In the process, last year alone three out of four Army soldiers faced a change-of-duty move.

That restructuring is dramatically changing the face of the Army. "The image you'll see at the end of this will be of a completely different Army," says Meade. A decade ago, as much as 50 percent of the Army was stationed overseas. According to Meade, "what you're seeing taking shape now is an Army that is no longer forward-deployed, but rather stationed in the United States, including Alaska and Hawaii, and ready to project forces out."

That fundamental vision has served as the blueprint not only for how the Army is taking its personnel cuts, but where its remaining forces will be based in the United States and how they will fight in the future. For instance, the model for fighting future wars will no longer be based on the European Command or Pacific Command, which have traditionally relied on forward-stationed Army troops overseas. Rather, the new model is Central Command, a small headquarters based in Florida that can call on a host of U.S.-based forces for rapid deployment, as it did for the Persian Gulf War and the current deployment in Somalia.

Returning Home

The lion's share of the Army's personnel cuts are coming out of Europe.

Under the Base Force plan promulgated by Joint Chiefs chairman Gen. Colin Powell and approved by the Bush Administration, the U.S. military presence in Europe was scheduled to shrink to roughly 150,000 active duty personnel by 1995, of which 92,000 would be Army troops. Already, under that plan, the Army has withdrawn half of its European-based forces and returned 293 overseas installations to host countries.

Under a policy and programming guidance document sent to the Army by Secretary Aspin in February, however, the service was directed to find additional savings of $ 2.5 billion in its fiscal 1994 budget request. To meet that target, the Army has decided to accelerate troop reductions, stepping up the pace to include an extra 18,000 personnel by the end of fiscal 1994.

In his guidance, Aspin stipulated that the military should budget for further reductions in Europe, toward an end-strength in fiscal 1996 of approximately 100,000. That number was endorsed by German Chancellor Helmut Kohl at a meeting of NATO defense ministers earlier this year. At that force level, the Army projects it would have just 65,000 troops in Europe.

Ironically, the Army would reportedly like to return its forces from Europe faster than Aspin thinks is prudent. If those positions are going to be cut eventually, say officials, the Army would just as soon eliminate them now to get to its stipulated ceilings. The service is also waiting for direction on what additional cuts it might have to absorb as part of President Clinton's announced plan to reduce the military by 200,000 beyond the Base Force. "If we're coming down in Europe anyway," says Meade, "the faster we do it, the better for the rest of the Army, because otherwise those cuts will have to be made in Kansas or Washington."

Slowing Withdrawal from Korea

Under a three-phase plan begun in 1990, the Army took 5,000 troops from a total of 32,000 based in South Korea. The second phase of the withdrawal, which would have brought 6,500 more troops home, has been suspended indefinitely, however, Senate Armed Services Committee chairman Nunn and ranking Republican John Warner pushed for a delay in light of reports of North Korea's efforts to develop a nuclear weapon and its decision to withdraw from the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.

Apparently vexed by the Nunn-Warner restrictions, as well as by Aspin's reported reluctance to accept the Army's accelerated withdrawal from Europe, Army Chief of Staff Gen. Gordon Sullivan revealed his frustrations in testimony before the House Armed Services Subcommittee on Military Forces and Personnel.

"We have been precluded from bringing forces home from overseas at a rate that we can handle and which saves us money in the long run," Sullivan said. "Some of our forces in the United States have readiness levels lower than I would like -- precisely because I can't bring the soldiers who should be in those squads and tank crews home from Europe and Korea."

U.S.-Based Forces

As Army forces do shift from overseas to stateside bases, the need to station them where they can be redeployed quickly in an emergency influences decisions on which stateside bases and units to retain in a smaller Army. Bases with ample training room that are situated near mobility hubs such as ports or major military airfields, for instance, clearly stand the best chance of weathering the drawdown and the latest round of base closures.

"It's no accident that the 24th Infantry Division (Mechanized) at Fort Stewart, Ga., and the 1st Cavalry Division at Fort Hood, Texas, are full-up divisions with high priorities in both manning and equipment," says Meade. Both can be rapidly deployed around the world from nearby ports in Savannah, Ga., and Beaumont, Texas. Under the recommendations of the Defense Department's Mobility Requirement Studies, new fast-scalift ships will also be homeported in those harbors to deploy the divisions anywhere in the world in 15 days. "So the fundamental vision of an Army stationed in the United States and capable of responding to crises and contingencies around the world affects how we're stationed, how we train and how we deploy," says Meade.

Another base that seems destined to prosper under the Army's new deployment imperatives is Fort Lewis, Wash. A large port in nearby Tacoma and a military airhub at McChord Air Force Base make it an ideal strategic hub for deployments to the Pacific Rim, including Korea. The relatively uncluttered Pacific Northwest also offers good training opportunities. Recently, the Army transferred one of the 7th Infantry Division's brigades to Fort Lewis from its former home in Fort Ord, California, which is scheduled to close as part of a previous round of base closures. The 7th Division is officially scheduled for deactivation by Sept. 30, 1993.

The Army also recently announced that it will fold the colors of the 6th Infantry Division in Alaska, though one of the three brigades of the deactivated division will remain in place. That will officially bring the Army down to 12 divisions, including one airborne, one air assault, two light infantry, five mechanized and three armored.

The fact that the Army is closing Fort Ord and expanding Fort Lewis may be a harbinger of the service's future priorities in basing. Fort Ord, Army officials say, suffered from the congestion of the San Francisco and Monterey areas. It was also a smaller base, without the on-post maneuver room or infrastructure of Fort Lewis.

The largest Army base on the recently announced list of 31 major bases recommended for closure was Fort McClellan, Ala. The base was expendable, officials say, because it was not home to a major, division sized unit. Of the 60 installations the Army has closed in the United States, almost 90 percent have been smaller housing units or maintenance and ammunition depots. "There are relatively few posts with the infrastructure to sustain and deploy an entire division, so with the exception of Fort Ord, we haven't closed any of those," says Army spokesman Maj. Pete Keating.

Because Army civilian workers operate most bases, maintenance depots and laboratories, the reductions are also having a profound affect on them. In addition to recent closings, for instance, 63 Army installations have been realigned, affecting workers such as those at Anniston Army Depot. The Army says the civilian workforce, which constitutes 20 percent of the Army total, is scheduled to shrink from 366,000 in fiscal 1990 to 285,000 by fiscal 1995. "We have a very close and dependent relationship with our civilian workers, and these consolidations and base closures have affected them across the board," says Meade. "Everyone's being hit."


In these days of shrinking force structure and reorganization, Air Force staffers whose job descriptions include words like "coordinates," "reviews" or "oversees" would be wise to start polishing their resumes.

"Those jobs are prime candidates for elimination," concedes Gen. Billy Boles, director of Air Force personnel, describing the service's campaign to pare middle management and streamline in an effort to retain as much fighting capability on the flightline as possible. "We're looking to retain those people whose jobs are described by active verbs like" conducts" and "operates."

By the end of this fiscal year, the defense drawdown will have reduced the Air Force's fighter force by 27 percent from its high-water mark in fiscal 1987. During that time, the number of fighter and attack aircraft in the service's arsenal will have dropped from 1,798 to 1,212. By 1995, the Air Force plans to have just 1,098 aircraft, representing a force-structure decline from 36 fighter-wing equivalents to 26.5.

Those reductions will dramatically affect Air Force personnel. Between 1986 and 1997 the number of officers in the Air Force will fall by 31 percent (from 109,049 to 75,774); the number of enlisted personnel by 35 percent (from 494,666 to 320,226); and the number of civilian personnel by 26 percent (from 263,248 to 194,254). That's a larger relative reduction, officials point out, than the highly publicized layoffs that have afflicted major U.S. corporations such as General Motors, IBM and Sears.

"That's forced us to let people know exactly who is targeted and what the rules of the drawdown are, or else the anxiety level reaches such a high pitch that it leads to inefficiency," says Boles.

A Major Reorganization

The service's vision of a smaller Air Force for the future was articulated in 1991 with the strategic white paper "Global Reach, Global Power," which focused on a largely U.S.-based Air Force ready to deploy and project power around the world. "Global Reach" coincided with the announcement of a major reorganization; which featured a number of consolidations.

The biggest change has been in force structure devoted to strategic deterrence. "We've already seen considerable drawdown in the areas of nuclear bombers and missiles, with many strategic bombers being converted to a conventional role," says Boles.

To reflect that shift in emphasis, the Air Force abolished the Strategic Air Command (SAC), based at Offutt Air Force Base, Omaha. Many of its personnel and assets were merged with Tactical Air Command, creating the new Air Combat Command at TAC's old headquarters at Langley Air Force Base, Va. Some of SAC's refuelers were merged with Military Airlift Command (MAC) into the new Air Mobility Command, based at MAC's old headquarters at Scott Air Force Base, Ill. Meanwhile, a unified, nuclear warfighting command called Strategic Command was established at Offutt to assume operational control of all Air Force and Navy nuclear weapons.

The service also combined Air Force Systems Command, its prime weapons developer and buyer, and Air Force Logistics Command. The new hybrid, Air Force Materiel Command, is located at Logistics Command's former home, Ohio's Wright-Patterson Air Force Base. Intelligence activities also were consolidated, resulting in an overall reduction in the number of Air Force commands from 13 to 10.

Throughout the reorganization, the philosophy driving the changes was to reduce unnecessary middle management whenever possible. When the service eliminated the 19 air divisions it had scattered around the world, for instance, that took out an entire layer of management between air wings and the numbered air forces.

Between 1991 and 1994, the air staff at the Pentagon will also be reduced by roughly 30 percent, Boles says. "Wherever we had people in a chain of command who were observing, coordinating or reviewing, we asked ourselves why these people were necessary. "And anyone who didn't add direct value to our operations, we eliminated," he says.

Air Force Basing

Of the 150,000 troops that the military is scheduled to withdraw from Europe by 1995, roughly 58,000 will come from the Air Force. Aspin has directed the services to plan for further reductions to a ceiling of 100,000, with the Air Force's portion of that force thought to be around 35,000. To date, there has been no indication of how the additional overall reduction in U.S. military personnel of 200,000 would be distributed between the services.

The Air Force has already removed units from bases such as Hahn Air Force Base in Germany and Alconberry Air Force Base in England and has vacated Clark Air Force Base in the Philippines altogether. Officials say, however, that the nature of their mission and emphasis on "Global Reach" has given the Air Force a sort of vagabond outlook that has lessened the trauma of overseas base closures.

"I don't think we have quite the same emotional involvement in Europe that the Army has," says Boles. "In fairness to the Army, when you talk about taking a division out of Europe, that means 18,000 people and their equipment."

"But when we bring a wing out of Europe, you're talking 72 aircraft and maybe a thousand maintenance and support personnel that could be airlifted back pretty easily. And the air they have to fight in is pretty much the same over the United States as it is over Germany," says Boles.

In terms of basing in the United States, the Air Force is presently reaping the benefits of having started its drawdown and reorganization early. Some of the most difficult reductions and consolidations on the way to a smaller force have already been made. On the most recent list of 31 major bases that the Pentagon proposed closing, for instance, more than two-thirds of the closures would be absorbed by the Navy. Only four Air Force installations were included, and one of them, Homestead Air Force Base in Florida, has already been nearly shut down by Hurricane Andrew.


Even without a proportionate share of major base closures to worry about, the Air Force is finding the drawdown painful. Last year, for instance, the enlisted force was reduced by 24,000 beyond normal attrition. At the same time, 1,600 officers were forced to leave under a reduction in force.

"We seem to go through one of those every 20 years, and that's too often as far as I'm concerned," says Boles. "These people all came in as volunteers, both civilian and military, and they're good people. So if we have to ask them to leave, we have to be very careful to offer them as much transition assistance as possible. At the same time, we can't focus all our attention on those people we're asking to leave, because we still have nearly 600,000 people who are staying."

The most important thing the Air Force can do to avoid future disruptions, says Boles, is avoid RIFs altogether. When the service anticipated having to RIF 8,300 civilian employees at Air Force Materiel Command, for instance, it worked with DoD and Congress to come up with a sufficiently attractive incentive package to entice employees to leave voluntarily. Two weeks after the incentive packages were offered, 6,700 employees had applied for them. Because federal rules governing RIFs allow those affected to displace less senior employees, the Air Force also estimates that for every RIF, four to five other employees are bumped. "So if the numbers of people accepting our incentive package stopped today, that's still almost 7,000 people we didn't have to RIF, and approximately 28,000 who didn't have to change jobs. That's saved us a lot of inefficiency," says Boles.

The Air Force also plans to offer selected uniformed personnel the chance to retire after 15 years, rather than 20, in 1994 and '95. The challenge, says Boles, is having to take such measures amidst talk of a pay freeze, and convince those who stay that they're still valued parts of a dynamic organization.

"If all the troops on the flightline hear is that the military is too big and needs to be cut more, and we don't need them anymore, then they begin to feel like the whipping boys for the nation," says Boles.


Two years ago, during the Persian Gulf War, the Navy was making headlines with its Tomahawk missile strikes, amphibious assault ships lurking off the Kuwaiti coast and successful dogfights with Iraqi aircraft. These days, news from the Navy is more apt to concern sexual discrimination charges, accidents at sea or criminal acts resulting from homophobia. The dark cloud of the 1991 Tailhook scandal still looms over the Navy and may yet cost the careers of several high-ranking officers. And the service is deeply divided over the possibility of lifting the ban on homosexuals.

As if that weren't enough, the budget crunch and diminishing Cold War threats are making it harder to justify maintaining large force levels.

In response, Navy leaders have undertaken radical reforms to deal with dramatic budget contraints and the changing roles and missions of the U.S. military. So far, those reforms have included reorganizing the Navy command hierarchy and releasing a strategic white paper titled "From the Sea," which outlines the service's changing roles and missions for the next decade and assess the requirements necessary to execute those missions.

In the report Aspin forwarded to the Defense Base Closure and Realignment Commission in March, the Navy takes the hardest hit. Of the 31 major bases recommended for closure and 12 for realignment, 26 are Navy and 2 are Marine Corps. Military and civilian personnel are being offered voluntary exit incentives to help ease the reduction of manpower. The Navy already is midway through a five-year drawdown of active-duty personnel from 582,854 in 1990 to 509,000 in 1995. The Bush administration had planned to continue reducing personnel to 501,200 by 1997 in getting to its "Base Force" of 435 ships. Personnel planners are preparing to reduce military personnel below what was approved by the Bush Administration without forcing out career sailors -- those with six to 20 years of active duty service.

Hard Choices

These various steps took on added significance in February when Aspin ordered an additional $ 3 billion in cuts from the Navy's $ 82 billion budget, with only $ 300 million to come from the Marine Corps. The request was part of an overall $ 11 billion defense cut for fiscal 1994.

In response to Aspin's order, Adm. Frank Kelso II, chief of naval operations and acting Navy secretary, on Feb. 8 forwarded a fiscal 1994 budget submission that recommended retiring many older ships and aircraft and releasing 40,800 sailors -- 21,000 more than previously planned. To do so, the Navy would spend an additional $ 209 million on voluntary exit bonuses and would resort to selective use of the congressionally approved 15 year retirement option for obtaining further reductions.

President Clinton's proposed 1994 defense budget, released March 27, calls for accelerating Navy and Marine Corps manpower reductions beyond what the Bush Administration had proposed. The new budget would reduce active-duty Navy personnel by 45,600, for a year-end total of 400,800. Reserves would be trimmed by 20,275, to 113,400.

The Marine Corps, meanwhile, would be reduced by 8,000 to 174,100. That's a cut of 2,000 more than the Bush Administration had planned to make. Marine Corps reserves would lose 5,400, bringing their end-strength to 36,900.

"Losing ships hurts, but if we lose the confidence and motivation of Navy people, we will lose everything," says Vice Adm. Ronald J. Zlatoper, chief of naval personnel. "The pace is more important than the final numbers of people on active duty, as far as our manpower-reduction strategy is concerned. Given enough time, we can get down to practically any number without forcing mid-career sailors out of the Navy."

On the civilian side, the plan recommended thousands of layoffs, with many losing their jobs as early as May 1. Nearly 10,000 Navy shipyard workers could be cut, says one Pentagon source. Another 2,000 civilian cuts are expected at Naval Sea and Air Systems Commands. The Pentagon is accomplishing some of its civilian reduction by offering voluntary incentive payments of up to $ 25,000 for those who qualify.

"These efforts were not easy. We are giving up real military capability and significantly contracting our organic industrial and support base," Kelso wrote in a memo accompanying the budget proposal. "In the case of civilians, some can only be achieved by reductions in force, a number of which will have to be set in motion by May 1 of this year to generate savings."

Long-Term Planning

The Navy's budget proposal, leaked to the press in February, revealed the first phase of a closely guarded six-year plan to reduce the force to 320 ships by 1999. The plan calls for retaining 12 aircraft carriers, the heart and soul of the service's sea-based power projection, and aims well below Aspin's previous proposal to reduce the Navy to 340 ships by 1997.

Navy officials would not confirm these figures, saying only that they are among many such force planning, scenarios on the table. Both the Navy's 1994 budget proposal and its long-term plans are the result of many internal -- and reportedly heated -- discussions on how to trim the force over the next several years. Many of these proposals still are being debated at various levels in the Pentagon, officials say.

The evolution started last summer when Navy leaders bodly reorganized their Pentagon command structure, cutting the number of flag officers by 20 percent (34 positions), in the process.

The streamlined command structure provided the means for conducting a six-month-long assessment of the Navy's assets and requirements, says Vice Adm. William Owens, who as deputy chief of naval operations for resources, warfare requirements and assessments is the service's top budget officer. Owens says the reorganization, the release of "From the Sea" and the assessment process were needed to help guide the Navy into the future.

Ownes, a submariner and former Sixth Fleet commander, served for two years as senior military assistant to former Defense Secretary Dick Cheney before becoming one of the Navy's top uniformed budget officers. In the latter role, he coordinated the assessment process, which involved participation by 25 admirals and, for the first time, input from the Atlantic, Pacific and European fleets' four-star commanders. The fleets were given direct access to the Pentagon via a liaison office established as part of the reorganization.

Owens says the assessment process produced a wide range of budget options for fiscal 1994 and beyond. Kelso used those options to compile the final 1994 budget proposal. The admirals, meanwhile, are busy studying options for the years 1995-99 for presentation to Kelso in June.

In addition to speeding up the reduction of active-duty personnel, the Clinton plan for the Navy in 1994 includes:

  • Reducing the number of ships from 443 to 413 by cutting a net 30 combatant ships, including two attack submarines, six cruisers and eight reserve frigates.
  • The early decommissioning of two oil-fueled carriers, the Saratoga and the Forrestal, now undergoing overhaul in Philadelphia, to accommodate a mixed-gender crew for use in training. Active-duty carriers would be detailed for periodic use in training.
  • Retiring numerous aircraft squadrons, including the first steps of a plan to phase out by 1999 the Navy's entire fleet of A-6 bombers. The proposal cuts two A-6 squadrons, two F-14 Tomcat squadrons and sets aside design money to upgrade 210 F-14s over five years, turning them into temporary fighter/bombers until a next-generation bomber is developed.
  • Retaining development funds for several programs, including two tactical aircraft, the AFX stealth bomber and the F/A-19 E/F, and the Marine Corps V-22 Osprey tilt-rotor troop delivery aircraft.
  • Cutting administrative and civilian positions in proportion to reductions in maintenance and construction projects.

Setting Priorities

The Navy's budget proposal isn't all downsizing. In some areas such as research and expeditionary warfare, spending is actually set to increase. In his memo to Aspin, Kelso defends spending money to develop items the Navy deems essential for its new regional and coastal battle strategy.

For instance, the proposal spares advance funding of a ninth Nimitz-class aircraft carrier. Funding also would be provided to remanufacture four Marine Corps AV-8B Harrier jets for night capability. A sixth WASP class amphibious assault ship would be purchased, along with development funds for a next-generation amphibious ship, the LX, to come on line in 1996.

The budget sets aside money to improve the command, control and intelligence for Marine Corps amphibious vessels to act as control centers in joint operations. Funds also are appropriated to improve shipboard Aegis radar systems for theater missile defense -- the type used to intercept Iraqi Seuds. Emphasis also is given to standoff missiles such as the Tomahawk cruise missile, shallow water anti-submarine warfare, mine countermeasure technology and surveillance.

The Navy's 1993 base closure recommendations being formulated at the same time as the budget proposal were not considered in the assessment process. Owens says, since the closure list requires a long approval process.

James L. George, a naval affairs analyst with the U.S. Institute of Peace, is not optimistic that the Navy's base-closing plans will survive congressional scrutiny. "The Navy may be counting on large savings from base closures, but it won't be easy because of the politics congressmen will play to keep them open. Unfortunately, the Navy will have to cut more ships to keep those bases open. It's not fair, but that's politics."


                     (end strength in thousands)

                       FY 1992        FY 1993        FY 1994

Active Military

Army                           611            575            540

Navy                           542            526            481

Air Force                      470            445            426

Marine Corps                   185            182            174

Total Active                 1,108          1,728          1,621

Selected Reserves            1,114          1,080          1,020

Civilians                    1,006            964            919

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