Pentagon Plans To Slash Thousands Of Troops From Army Special Ops Amid Recruiting Woes, China Threat: REPORT

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Micaela Burrow Investigative Reporter, Defense
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The Pentagon may soon sign off on cuts to U.S. Army special operations forces amid recruiting problems and a struggle over limited resources needed to prepare for a possible conflict in the Pacific, The Wall Street Journal reported.

If authorized, the Army would slash 3,000, or about 10%, special operations troops from the ranks despite U.S. Special Operations Command’s (SOCOM) vigorous efforts to convince the Army it needs to retain special forces levels, the WSJ reported. The Army previously pledged cuts to redundant support personnel, but under the proposal, it could also lose so-called “trigger-pullers,” the commandos who perform the most dangerous and sensitive military missions around the world.

Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin has not formally authorized the reductions, but he is expected to sign the necessary documents soon, the WSJ reported, citing officials. (RELATED: Navy To Begin Randomly Testing Special Operations Forces For Steroids)

Army leaders say the proposed reductions will help the service rebalance toward a possible great power competition in the Pacific, which requires more resources devoted toward conventional forces, according to the WSJ. It would also help alleviate the Army’s recruiting shortfall.

But SOCOM, senior special operations officers and some members of Congress oppose the cuts, arguing that special forces are needed as advance forces and to train partner militaries, according to the WSJ and Defense One.

“I’m very concerned about the pacing threat of China simultaneously with the reduction of SOF. When you look at the things that would deter China, SOF are on the tip of the spear. And so I think that the more we invest in our special operations, problems that ultimately could harm our nation over the next decade or two could be prevented,” Republican North Carolina Sen. Ted Budd told Defense One.

“It’s unclear that this administration understands the value of SOF. Otherwise, they wouldn’t be proposing cuts,” he said.

The Army will brief members of Congress about the imminent cuts soon, according to the WSJ. Most of the reductions will occur in so-called “enabler” ranks, including intelligence, communications, logistics, psychological warfare and other branches.

In 2022, SOCOM lost 700 troops under congressionally-mandated cuts from the Army and the other services, bringing the total loss to about 3,700 since last year, according to the WSJ.

Congress could reject the Army’s proposal and strip any authorization or funding from the fiscal year 2024 defense bills, which are not yet finalized.

The U.S. relied extensively on special operations troops to conduct counterinsurgency campaigns in the Middle East over the past two decades of the war on terror. But as the threat from China, a near-peer adversary, grows, the Pentagon is trying to restructure forces to better prepare for the kind of warfare that would take place across vast oceans and small islands with similarly-equipped military.

“At some point, we have to recognize the excess size we grew to during the post 9/11 era,” a senior defense official told Defense One, referencing the Army’s bloated SOF headquarters.

The Pentagon did not immediately respond to the Daily Caller News Foundation’s request for comment.

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