Army end strength could fall to 445,000 in FY-23

By Ethan Sterenfeld / July 19, 2022 at 12:55 PM

Army end strength will fall by more than previously announced in fiscal years 2022 and 2023, but there are currently no plans to cut brigade combat teams or other units, Gen. Joseph Martin, the vice chief of staff, said today.

“We don’t need to do that immediately, but if we don’t arrest the decline that we’re seeing right now in end strength, that could be a possibility in the future,” Martin told the House Armed Services readiness subcommittee.

The active-duty Army expects to have 466,000 soldiers when FY-22 ends on Sept. 30, he said. A year later, at the end of FY-23, the service estimates it will have between 445,000 and 452,000 soldiers.

Authorized end strength stands at 485,000 soldiers, as of the FY-22 budget. Recruiting struggles, including a labor shortage and a shrinking pool of eligible recruits, led the Army to reduce its planned end strength to 473,000 in its FY-23 budget request. At the time of the budget release in March, the service expected to have 476,000 soldiers at the end of FY-22.

“In the near term, the way we’re going to manage any shortfalls that we have is the way that we’ve done it in the past,” Martin said. “We prioritize formations that have missions or preparations for missions.”

The Army will “mission” itself to have 455,000 soldiers at the end of FY-23, in case it is able to recruit more, he said.

Less than 18 months ago, the Army chief of staff said that authorized level of 485,000 soldiers was too small, and that an ideal size would be closer to 540,000.

Reductions to the number of brigade combat teams, a common metric of combat power, would be a sign of more serious, longer-lasting cuts to the Army than temporary drops in end strength, an analyst told Inside Defense earlier this year.