Maryland largely spared in major Army troop cuts

Maryland Army bases will see almost no change in troop levels under a plan detailed Thursday to cut 40,000 soldiers from the military's ranks.

The cuts will come over the next two years and would leave the Army with 450,000 active duty soldiers, down from a high of 570,000 at the peak of fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan. Currently there are 490,000 soldiers. 17,000 civilians would also be cut under the plan.


While those conflicts are mostly over, the cuts come at a time when the United States faces the prospect of a protracted conflict against the self-declared Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, an aggressive Russia and an increasingly assertive China.

Despite the sweeping cuts that the Army says will affect almost every installation, Maryland's bases will see almost no change in their troop levels. Aberdeen Proving Ground's 2,614 troops will be cut by 126, but Fort Meade's 4,924 soldiers will grow by 99.

Rep. C A Dutch Ruppersberger, whose district includes the two facilities, said he was pleased the Army had recognized the important chemical and computer warfare work being done at the bases.

"The missions of APG and Ft. Meade are the missions of our future and we will continue to need these hard-working men and women as long as maintaining a modern Army remains a priority for our country," the Baltimore County Democrat said.

Lt. Gen Joseph Anderson, the Army's deputy chief of staff, said the cuts were due to limited budgets.

"These were very difficult decisions to make as all of our installations and their communities offer tremendous value to our Army and the nation," he said in a statement. "In the end, we had to make decisions based on a number of strategic factors, to include readiness impacts, mission command and cost."

Lawmakers blamed the latest cuts on spending caps imposed under the 2011 sequester law, an attempt to impose defense funding limits so stringent they would force members of Congress to negotiate.

Sue Walitsky, a spokeswoman for Sen. Ben Cardin, said the spending caps should be lifted.


"All of our federal agencies, military included, need certainty and reasonable budgets that enable them to carry out their missions on behalf of the American people and not yearly budget gimmicks," she wrote in an email before the cuts were detailed.

The Department of Defense first announced the proposed reductions in early 2014, but then-Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said that if the sequester remained in place in 2016 that further cuts to troop numbers would be necessary.

Officials said Thursday that without additional funding the Army would have to cut a further 30,000 troops by the end of 2019.

Ruppersberger said Congress and the White House need to work together to make sure that doesn't happen and call the cuts already made "senseless."