Army layoffs slowed in first half of 2016

In the last six months, the Army has slowed down the number of soldiers it fired as part of the overall downsizing of the force.

From the beginning of January to the end of June 2016, the Army cut 121 soldiers from active duty in order to meet force reduction requirements, said an Aug. 8 report from Debra Wada, assistant secretary of the Army for manpower and reserve affairs.

The cuts are a sharp decline compared to the last half of 2015, when the Army released nearly 500 soldiers from its ranks.

In the past six months, the majority of those fired from the service were mid-tier enlisted and lower tier officers.

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The Army released 33 captains, seven majors and two lieutenant colonels in the first half of 2016. On the enlisted side, the Army let go 33 sergeants first class, 19 staff sergeants, 17 sergeants major, nine master sergeants and one sergeant.

The Army seems to be moving down the pay scale in selecting people to layoff. The last round of separations focused more on higher tier officers and enlisted soldiers with 20 years of service or more.

This round’s layoffs are solidly focused on officers and soldiers who had exactly 20 years of experience. Of the 121 soldiers laid off, 72 were 20-year veterans of the service.

A chunk of less experienced soldiers were also let go: 19 had seven years of experience in the Army.

The average officer let go by the Army spent 19.6 months deployed overseas. The average enlisted soldier spent 30.75 months deployed overseas.

Of the 121 soldiers, 34 received retired pay in connection with the separation and 30 received separation pay or were authorized to receive retired pay at a reduced annuity.

The Army currently has 482,000 active-duty soldiers. That will be reduced to 475,000 by the end of fiscal 2016. The number will be further reduced to 450,000 by 2018.

Army Vice Chief of Staff Gen. Daniel Allyn said the Army still needs to cut another 14,000 regular, guard and reserve troops to reach less than a million soldiers by 2018.

Of those 14,000, the Army needs to cut to reach its intended numbers, 10,000 will be officers, said Gen. Daniel Allyn, vice chief of staff of the Army.

The Army has been planning to reduce its military personnel from 1.3 million to 980,000 since the release of the 2014 Quadrennial Defense Review.

“With 186,000 deployed on a daily basis in 140 countries, you understand my discomfort with trying to continue to meet emergent demands and current operations with a force that is getting smaller,” Allyn said during a March 15 Senate Armed Services Readiness Subcommittee hearing.

Allyn said the soldiers who were cut in the 2015 layoffs were highly seasoned.

“Over 50 percent of those we were asking to separate involuntarily had two or more combat deployments, so these are all soldiers that have answered the call of the nation; they have served admirably and because of the program force structure we must separate [from] them,” Allyn said.

Allyn told the subcommittee the Army is doing everything it can through its Soldier for Life program to provide them a seamless transition into civilian life.

The Army is also giving the Army Reserve and Army National Guard first dibs on hiring the laid off soldiers.

Though the Army is currently drawing down, the House version of the 2017 defense authorization bill increases the ranks of the Army by 20,000, back up to 480,000, for 2017.

Justin Johnson, a senior policy analyst at the Heritage Foundation, said adding those troops will be a costly endeavor. He estimates the price tag at $1.5 billion to $2 billion just for 2017. That doesn’t include enduring costs.