Smallest army numbers since WWII – which units face cuts in 2024?

The new year will likely prove to be one of major force structure changes for the Army, according to its senior leaders.

Although the service has argued for years that adopting multi-domain operations will require it to “transform” the force structure into one that leaders believe is appropriate for tomorrow’s battlefield, joint recruiting shortfalls have led top officials to admit by mid-to-late 2023 that some pending cuts are being affected by the growing shortfall in numbers. The Army ended fiscal year 2023 with only 452,000 active duty troopsits lowest strength since 1940.

Secretary of the Army Christine Warmuth he told Army Times in June that the agency would see reductions in “close combat forces” created specifically for the War on Terror, in addition to other agencies based on their purpose or other factors such as deployment rates.

The controversy erupted in October after a Wall Street Journal report suggesting that 3,000 Army special operations soldiers could be cut. According to other media reports, the special operations community and military leadership disagreed over the potential reductions, ultimately requiring mediation by Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin.

Although details of the cuts are scarce, agency and special operations officials briefed Congress on the issue in October. The update included “Changes to the structure of the military, to include [special operations forces],” according to a congressional staffer, who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss the private briefing. A significant portion of the special operations cuts are expected to fall on hard-to-fill vacancies, a defense official said he told Army Times in October.

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The cuts are meant to ensure the Army doesn’t become “hollow,” Wormuth says, using a term coined in the post-Vietnam era, when some units existed on paper rather than in real life.

Military Times Deputy Editor Leo Shane III contributed to this report.

Davis Winkie covers the Army for Military Times. He studied history at Vanderbilt and UNC-Chapel Hill and served five years in the Army Guard. His investigations won the Society of Professional Journalists’ 2023 Sunshine Award and consecutive military reporter and editor honors, among others. Davis was also a finalist for the 2022 Livingston Awards.

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