WASHINGTON — Sweeping budget and personnel cuts proposed Monday by Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel would hit some military bases hard while protecting others.
With the Army targeted to lose as many as 80,000 active-duty troops from its current 520,000-strong force, reaching its smallest size since before World II, major installations from Fort Jackson, S.C., to Fort Hood, Texas, could see their operations scaled back significantly.
The proposal to shrink the world's mightiest military force comes as the United States seeks to redefine its role on the world stage, with the Iraq war over and U.S. combat engagement in Afghanistan winding down, a two-front strategy involving lengthy occupations that severely tested military capabilities. It also reflects the competing demands of spending restraints, national security and politics.
Eliminating two dozen tank-killer A-10 attack planes at Whiteman Air Force Base near Kansas City, for instance, is part of a broader move to retire all of the aging "Warthogs," saving the Pentagon an estimated $3.5 billion over five years. It also would retire the venerable U-2 spy plane, which debuted early in the Cold War as a stalwart of U.S. intelligence.
But lawmakers from Missouri and other states will certainly object.
Meanwhile, installations such as Fort Bragg, N.C., Joint Base Lewis-McChord outside Tacoma, Wash., and Fort Campbell, Ky., would likely emerge largely unscathed from the cuts because of their specialized missions.
Hagel said he had recommended the realignment plan to President Barack Obama, who is expected to present his annual budget to Congress next week.
"This is the first time in 13 years we will be presenting a budget to the Congress of the United States that's not a war-footing budget," Hagel told reporters at the Pentagon.
The Pentagon plan also reflects ongoing budget pressures in Washington amid partisan struggles over the proper size of government.
Obama's aides indicated the plan would get a warm reception at the White House.
"The recommendations fit and represent a responsible, realistic approach to supporting the president's defense strategy," Press Secretary Jay Carney said.
Hagel is recommending a 1% pay increase for military and civilian employees to match an increase that White House aides said Obama will seek for all federal workers after a three-year wage freeze.
Despite congressional demands to cut overall Pentagon spending, lawmakers almost certainly will oppose hits on installations in their states and resist Hagel's call for a new round of base closings.
"This is another dumb idea," said Sen. Lindsey Graham, a South Carolina Republican and member of the Senate Armed Services Committee.
Even some Democrats who have burnished reputations as fiscal hawks responded coolly to some aspects of the spending plan for the Pentagon.
"I will be taking a hard look at its new budget proposal to make sure it still provides for the strongest national defense," said Sen. Claire McCaskill, a Missouri Democrat and member of the Armed Services Committee.
Among other changes Hagel proposed:
The active-duty Army would shrink from today's 522,000 soldiers to between 440,000 and 450,000 — the smallest number since 1940 when the nation was gearing up to enter World War II. The Army currently is scheduled to be reduced to 490,000.
The Army National Guard would drop from 355,000 soldiers to 335,000 by 2017, and the Army Reserve would drop by 10,000, to 195,000. The National Guard also would send its Apache attack helicopters to the active-duty Army in exchange for Black Hawk helicopters more suitable for domestic disaster relief missions.
The Marine Corps would shrink from 190,000 to 182,000.
The Navy would keep its 11 aircraft carriers but "lay up," or temporarily remove from active service, 11 of its 22 cruisers while they are modernized. The Navy would reduce from 52 to 32 its purchase of littoral combat ships, which are smaller vessels designed to operate closer to shore.
Hagel also proposed a variety of changes in military compensation, including smaller pay raises, a slowdown in the growth of tax-free housing allowances and a requirement that retirees and some families of active-duty service members pay a little more in health insurance deductibles and co-pays.
"Although these recommendations do not cut anyone's pay, I realize they will be controversial," Hagel said, adding that the nation cannot afford the escalating cost of military pay and benefit packages that were enacted during the war years.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.