US army to be smallest size since before World War 2 - Broadsword by Ajai Shukla - Strategy. Economics. Defence.

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Wednesday 26 February 2014

US army to be smallest size since before World War 2

By Ajai Shukla
Business Standard, 26th Feb 14

Even as India increases the size of its army by close to 1,50,000 soldiers, raising uncomfortable questions of how it will finance equipment modernization, the United States is cutting its army to the smallest size since before World War II in order to equip and train it adequately.

According to the Pentagon’s new spending proposals, the end of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars and a sharply reduced defence budget force manpower to be slashed to retain funding for maintaining America’s military technological edge.

The New York Times, which has broken the news ahead of a report that it says will be made public on Monday, says that America’s land forces will be reduced from a post-9/11 peak of 570,000 to about 440,000 in the coming years.

America, however, will maintain its ability to project power across the globe. It will retain 11 aircraft carriers that are spread across the world, and the US Navy will continue to purchase two destroyers and two attack submarines every year.

The controversial F-35 fifth generation strike aircraft, which has faced time and cost overruns, will continue to get funding. The legendary U-2 spy plane, which performed reconnaissance missions over enemy territory by flying higher and faster than any fighter aircraft in service, will be retired; the unmanned, remotely piloted Global Hawk will replace the U-2.

Providing an opportunity for India, the US Air Force is retiring its entire fleet of A-10 Warthog ground strike aircraft. Bristling with cannons, rockets, bombs and air-to-surface missiles, this armoured aircraft was specially designed to provide fire support to army soldiers on the battlefield. During both Gulf Wars against Iraq, the A-10 was the nemesis of Iraqi tanks.

“Whether in the mountains, or against enemy tank forces, the A-10 would dramatically boost the Indian Army’s combat power”, says a senior serving general. The army increasingly believes that the Indian Air Force (IAF) is focusing more on tackling enemy air forces rather than on supporting the army on the battlefield.

Emphasising the changing nature of warfare, the new Pentagon plan, which carries the imprimatur of Secretary of Defence, Chuck Hagel, protects funding for Special Operations Forces and for cyber warfare.

The budget cuts that necessitate this restructuring stem from the Bipartisan Budget Act of December, which caps military spending at $496 billion for 2015 (India has allocated $36 billion on defence in 2014-15). The US military could see even deeper cuts in 2016, if the sequestration law kicks in.

The budget has been ruthless on personnel spending, imposing a one-year salary freeze for generals and flag officers. Military personnel will have to make do with a salary rise of 1 per cent; and face reduced subsidies for housing and daily living.

In contrast, the Indian army, in the interim budget presented on February 17, has retained its bloated personnel costs --- spending more than two-thirds of its revenue budget on salaries. This is set to increase once the 7th Pay Commission inevitably raises entitlements. 


  1. U2 definitely flies higher but not sure if you meant faster as well... it is subsonic..

  2. There is no point in talking all this we need all these goons out (the 60 to 70 year old babus)! These guys have no brains,at all, they don't even care about the motherland!I just hope the army takes over and just throw these guys out.The younger generation should take over and show to the world that we are top of the world. The A10s absolutely, i just hope someone there will realize the worth of theses 'Warthogs' they will blow up anything on the ground, period!

  3. We should induct A-10 into the Indian Army and use it for the western border. It can be flown by aviation but command should be from armoured corps...being a manyuver platform ...yup naturally..and of course vacancy increase yup lets do it...doesnt matter if we still havent inducted a replacement for the cheetah n chetaks.....dreaming of A-10s!! CC, write when not on grass!!

  4. The Americans dont really need an army. They live on an island. The same is not true for India. Our requirements will always be manpower intensive.
    A10 surely will help a lot but it was more useful before the era of guided weapons. For busting tanks even Hawk trainers armed with Nag/Brimstone ATGM can do a great job.

  5. The A-10 will be a great buy at reduced prices, if India goes for it.

    However, it seems Indian Army is getting ready for a million man walk (sort of an Indian long march) to China.

    How many of them will be able to cross even 10 km in Tibet with old unreliable INSAS guns, crappy helmets, boots, gloves, world war II era radios and old Russian Armour is definitely a million man question.

    Bloating is the new mantra!!

  6. Col Shukla,
    While I understand your point on Indian army being very manpower heavy, I disagree that it's unnecessary. We live in very different neighbourhood, distinct/difficult geographies. Right from high mountains to arid desert. There is no other way but to physically man these outposts in the face of two hostile neighbours.

    Let me remind you that we are not as lucky as US with a settled, peaceful and happy border (Canada) or a piddly neighbour mexico. Now compare these two with China and Pakistan none of them are pushover and covet our resources.

    As for using technology to man these borders, I am sure you are well aware what are the cost implications as well as limitations of tech in Freezing, snowing, foliage covered Himalayas. We don't have the money simply..

    Even if someday we have the money to put 24 satellites in space for 24hr surveillance, we would need a $5 mln missile to kill 20 Chinese intruders and fire dozens of them... in Kashmir for every group of Yahoos that cross over to kill Indians. Do we have the money?

    We have a manpower centric army because we don't have means to infuse technology or safe geography.. Rest all your argument is mere posturing without any basis in reality.


  7. Ha ha its fun...A-10 is a second gen aircraft. It can be shot down by any man-portable air defense system like stinger missiles. So what opportunity it provides for India ? Do we have a plan to attack Male, Somalia or Uganda for fun sake?? I wonder who was that senior serving general want A-10s ?? I am sure he did not learn from Kargil War where our aircraft was shot down by Pakistan nor he understands the capability of enemy !!!

  8. 368594527 Lakhs soldiers are more than enough for India. We are wasting money. Instead of 14 lakhs army personnel we could have small, well equipped, smart and mobile army. A10's are very old Ajai sir. You missed to say what is replacing A10's for USA. Maintaining A10's may be a problem else why USA is retiring it?

  9. Ajay !!

    Someone with your knowledge and maturity should not be writing this article , wherein you are comparing vis-a-vis directly US and Indian spends and expenditure.
    You know pretty well the situations and conditions are pretty well asymmetric and not even similar to be used for to be put up for a direct quote comparison.

    This is a bad and shortsighted when as a journalist you should be giving mature opinions and articles that provide strategic thought.

  10. How come even after having this 1.5 million man army, Chinese forces still dominate the borders?? How come they get scope to come inside our borders and put up the tent?

    Irony is that when Chinese forces patrol their borders in All Terrain Vehicles, Helicopters with LORROP cameras, UAVs and electronic gadgets quite effectively, India sends its ill equipped soldiers on foot patrol !!

    Hey, if you spend all your money on manpower, where will you find money to buy weapons, technologies and helicopters?

    Time to reduce this army to a maximum of 8 Lakhs. For insurgency, there is already RR, CRPF, Greyhounds and many more. Cut the Indian Army down to 8 lakhs and divest all non-essential duties to contractors, which are ex-military. Otherwise, the human wall on borders will not be effective and its recipe for disaster.

  11. Dear Ajai,

    Chuck Hagel's announcement marks the low point of the reduction cycle of the US armed forces. Everything is a cycle and my model predicts the bottom is in for the reduction. We will see an increase from here going into 2017/2020. No empire dies without an explosive dying gasp that sucks out all the oxygen around it. The end game will be played out between 2032 to 2037, but until then long live the king dollar. Meanwhile, get ready for an economic mayhem in the emerging markets after Sep 2014.


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