Pentagon to shrink ground force to around 444,000

By 정주원
  • Published : Feb 25, 2014 - 10:15
  • Updated : Feb 25, 2014 - 10:18

The Pentagon announced plans Monday to reduce the number of ground troops to the lowest level since before World War II as part of efforts to cut budgets.

It is still unclear whether or how it will affect the operation of the 28,500-strong U.S. Forces Korea, officials said.

Under the proposal unveiled by Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel, the Army will be downsized to between 440,000 and 450,000 soldiers by 2017. The current force is 520,000.

  "We are repositioning to focus on the strategic challenges and opportunities that will define our future: new technologies, new centers of power and a world that is growing more volatile, more unpredictable and in some instances more threatening to the United States," the secretary said at a Pentagon press conference.

The announcement comes a week before President Barack Obama is scheduled to submit his 2015 budget plan to Congress.

Pentagon officials said details of the massive budget cut plan have yet to be worked out.

So it's too early to predict the level of impact on USFK, they added.

"The full budget comes out on March 4th. I don't think there is anything that is coming out today that directly mentions any country," a Pentagon official told Yonhap News Agency.

An informed source here, however, said the U.S. is unlikely to change the number of USFK troops, given the importance of Korea in Washington's strategy of rebalancing toward Asia after a decade of wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

"It's my understanding that the U.S. will maintain the current level of its troops in Korea) as uncertain situations persist there and the U.S. places more emphasis on Asia," the source said.

In January, Army Chief of Staff Gen. Ray Odierno said his troops will increase rotational deployments abroad.

The U.S. Army recently sent 800 soldiers with heavy weapons and armored vehicles to South Korea.

"We will continue to rotate those units in and out of Korea," Odierno said at a National Press Club session. (Yonhap)