The Army is on an end-strength roller coaster. The service jettisoned 690 of its active duty soldiers in the second half of 2016 to meet force reduction requirements.
The Army has permission from Congress to increase its end strength to 476,000 by the end of 2017, but until the 2017 defense authorization act was passed in December, the Army was trying to trim its active duty ranks from 490,000 in 2015 to 460,000 by the end of 2017. The current active duty force is about 475,000.
Now that the end strength is going back up it will still need Congress to pass an appropriations bill to pay for the increase.
Without the money, the service will have to cut other accounts to increase its force strength or hold off on building up to the 476,000 number.
President Donald Trump’s 2017 “skinny” budget, was supposed to help the Army stop the drawdown initiated in 2015, but that budget has languished in Congress since March.
Who got the ax
A majority of the layoffs were experienced by active duty captains. A total of 325 captains were asked to leave the Army. The second most affected rank was sergeant majors, with 208 being forced out of the service.
The captains spent an average of 23 months deployed in operations overseas and the sergeant majors spent an average of 25 months overseas.
It’s not rare for those who have spent time overseas to be separated. Allyn said the soldiers who were cut in the 2015 layoffs were highly seasoned.
“Over 50 percent of those we were asking to separate involuntarily had two or more combat deployments, so these are all soldiers that have answered the call of the nation; they have served admirably and because of the program force structure we must separate [from] them,” Army Vice Chief of Staff Gen. David Allyn said last year.
More than 350 of the newly involuntarily separated soldiers had 20 years or more of experience. A total of 235 had 10 years of experience or less. That’s a reversal from the layoffs of the second half of 2015, when all but 31 of the nearly 500 soldiers separated had 20 years or more of service.
Separations slowed during the first half of 2016 with only 121 soldiers forced to leave.
Logistics officers were the most volatile occupations in the second half of 2016; 61 were let go in this round of layoffs. Field artillery officers were also laid off in larger numbers.
Of those let go by the Army, 371 were eligible to receive retired pay in connection with the separation, while 296 were eligible to receive separation pay or authorized to receive retired pay at a reduced annuity.
All of the soldiers completed a transition program to prepare them for civilian life.
The Army is also giving the Army Reserve and Army National Guard first dibs on hiring the laid off soldiers, according to Allyn.
The Army began drawing down its force in 2015 when it went from 510,000 to 490,000 active duty soldiers. The plan was to further reduce to 450,000 by 2018.