WASHINGTON -- Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel on Monday proposed shrinking the Army to its smallest size in 74 years, closing military bases and making other military-wide savings as part of a broad reshaping after more than a decade of war.
Hagel outlined his vision in a speech at the Pentagon, a week before President Barack Obama is to submit his 2015 budget plan to Congress.
Hagel said that U.S. forces must adjust to the reality of smaller budgets, even as he asserted that the United States faces a more volatile, more unpredictable world that requires a more nimble military.
"We are repositioning to focus on the strategic challenges and opportunities that will define our future: new technologies, new centers of power and a world that is growing more volatile, more unpredictable and in some instances more threatening to the United States," he said.
Under the Hagel plan, which Congress could change, the active-duty Army would shrink from its current 522,000 soldiers to between 440,000 and 450,000. That would make it the smallest since just before the U.S. entered World War II.
Hagel said Obama's budget proposal will include a government-wide "Opportunity, Growth and Security Initiative" that would provide the Pentagon with $26 billion on top of the $496 billion it is due to receive in 2015 under terms of the budget deal passed by the Congress two months ago.
Among the bolder moves in Hagel's proposal is the elimination of the Air Force's fleet of A-10 aircraft as well as its venerable U-2 spy planes, as well as reductions in the size of the Army National Guard. Those moves are expected to draw some opposition in Congress.