By David Alexander
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The U.S. Army unveiled a long-awaited plan on Thursday for cutting the military service by nearly 60,000 soldiers and civilians, a budget-driven reduction it said would touch nearly every Army installation in the United States and overseas.
The decision to cut 40,000 soldiers and 17,000 civilians by the end of the 2017 fiscal year will mean several thousand lost jobs at bases in Georgia, Texas and Alaska and more than a thousand each in Hawaii and Washington, the Army said.
Documents given to reporters detailed only about half of the troop cuts, and it was not immediately clear where the remainder would take place. Cuts were detailed for 26 installations in the United States.
The cuts would reduce the active-duty Army from about 490,000 soldiers to about 450,000, its smallest size since World War Two. The Army said it had about 490,000 soldiers before the 2001 attacks, rising to about 570,000 in 2012 before reductions began.
"These cuts will impact nearly every Army installation, both in the continental United States and overseas," said Brigadier General Randy George, director of Army force management. "These are incredibly difficult choices," he said.
The cuts, first announced more than a year ago, come as the Pentagon is absorbing nearly $1 trillion in reductions to planned defense spending over a decade.
George said unless Congress moves to end spending limits currently in the law, the Army will have to cut the size of the force by a further 30,000 soldiers by the end of the decade.
"The resulting force would be incapable of simultaneously meeting current deployment requirements and responding to overseas contingency requirements," he said.
George said three Army combat brigades in Georgia, Alaska and Hawaii would be significantly restructured. Two of them would be reduced from brigade-sized units of about 4,000 to battalion task forces of about 1,050. One would lose its Stryker fighting vehicles and become a regular infantry brigade.
Fort Benning, Georgia, would lose 3,402 soldiers, Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Alaska, would cut 2,631 troops and Schofield Barracks in Hawaii would eliminate 1,214.
Other installations losing more than a thousand troops include Joint Base Lewis-McChord in Washington, which will shrink by 1,251, and two Texas bases, Forts Hood and Bliss, which will lose 3,350 and 1,219 soldiers respectively, the Army said.
"Any negative impact these communities experience is regrettable, but the Army has to operate within the budget provided," George said.
(Reporting by David Alexander; Editing by David Storey and Diane Craft)