Pentagon Review May Lead To Troop Reduction

Army Is Expected To Lose 50,000 Soldiers

Air Force, Navy May Get Fewer Jets


WASHINGTON -- The Pentagon's most sweeping strategic review since the end of the Cold War will almost certainly result in a cut in U.S. troop strength, especially in the Army, and a reduction in the Air Force and Navy budgets for high-technology jet fighters, Pentagon and congressional officials said yesterday.

Officials involved in preparing the Quadrennial Defense Review said the troop cuts could number in the tens of thousands and would help pay for a new generation of weapons.

Defense Secretary William S. Cohen hinted at the conclusions of the review, which is expected to be made public next month, when he said in a speech yesterday at the University of Georgia that "preparing for this uncertain future requires a robust modernization program."

"We don't want to engage in a fair fight, a contemporary war of attrition," he continued. "We want to dominate across the full spectrum of conflict, so that if we ever do have to fight, we will win on our terms."

The process that begins with the release of the Defense Review could alter U.S. military strategy, including revisions in the doctrine that now requires the armed forces to be ready to fight two large regional wars at about the same time, with both on the scale of the Persian Gulf war in 1991.

Some Pentagon officials argue that the strategy can be revised because of the relative weakness of most potential enemies.

But even if the changes are more incremental -- and that seems quite likely -- the result will still likely be the redistribution of tens of billions of dollars and the elimination of thousands of jobs.

"Everything is on the table," said Gen. John Shalikashvili, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. "For this process to be credible, you have to be able to show that you've considered all the options."

Pentagon officials say the review is almost certain to result in another round of cuts in the roster of active-duty troops -- which stands at 1.5 million, down by more than 30 percent in the past decade.

Pentagon officials say the Army may be asked to reduce its roster of 495,000 active-duty troops by as many 50,000, a cut that Army commanders describe as disastrous.

Although the Army is expected to make the largest cuts, despite the angry public objections of its leaders, the other services will quite likely be asked to trim their shopping lists for new fighter jets.

The cuts in troop strength would help pay for the new fighters that would remain in the budget, as well as a new generation of battlefield equipment like computerized artillery systems and biological-weapons detectors.

The last major weapons-shopping spree was during the Reagan administration, and many of the arms purchased at that time are considered obsolete.

Pub Date: 4/29/97

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