The US Defense Department has proposed slight cuts to end strengths for all its military services in the fiscal 2022 budget, except the Space Force.
The nascent Space Force, which is still in the process of being established as its own separate service within the Department of the Air Force, would grow from 6,434 “Guardians” in fiscal 2021 to nearly 8,400 next year, an increase of almost 31 percent, according to a Friday report by the US-based Military.com news outlet.
The proposed Pentagon budget released earlier on Friday calls for a cut of nearly 5,400 in total force end strength in the 2022 fiscal year. That includes small cuts to the Army, Navy, Air Force and the elite Marine Corps.
The Army's proposed end strength would decline by 1,800, though it would still maintain a force of 1,010,500 soldiers.
Although the Navy and Air Force are getting overall budget increases, their total force end strengths would be slashed. The Navy force will decline from 407,329 sailors to 404,800 -- a drop of 2,529 – while the Air Force would drop 855 airmen -- down to 506,900.
According to the report, the Marine Corps would also lose 2,143 Marines, for an end strength of 215,300.
The Pentagon further stated in its budget documents that it is planning to slash the number of US soldiers because it is divesting outdated weapons, vehicles and other platforms, as well as some units, including older F-16 jet fighters, landing ship docks, tank companies, and helicopter sea combat squadrons.
The proposed cuts, the report added, will allow the US military “to focus on developing advanced systems and capabilities, such as cyber electronic warfare and special operations.” Such future capabilities are necessary to allow the American military “to keep up with skilled potential adversaries,” the budget draft further states.
However, COVID-19 threw a wrench into the military's force planning, the report underlined. As the pandemic dealt a swift blow to the US economy and job market last spring, many troops who had been considering retirement or separation from the military had second thoughts. Some looked at the chances of finding a job in the private sector and instead decided to stay in uniform longer, Pentagon officials said late last year as cited in the report, resulting in "historically high levels of retention."
The military services also had to adapt their processes for bringing on and training new recruits in order to keep them safe during the pandemic and follow the Pentagon's health protection guidelines, according to the budget plan.
But even with those unexpected developments, the US defense department further noted that the military's overall end strength this year has remained within about 1,000 of the force levels called for in the 2021 budget.