Army Gets Short-Term Boost

Defense Secretary Robert Gates has approved a temporary increase of up to 22,000 soldiers for the Army that would sustain an end strength of about 569,000 for a three-year period. This is over the 65,000 soldiers that Congress previously approved as a permanent increase. Gates said Monday afternoon, in making the announcement, that the Pentagon would not ask for additional funding for Fiscal 2009 or 2010 budgets to support the initial increase, but he would work with the Administration for funding for the remaining two years of the temporary boost. He explained the need to further increase the number of soldiers, saying “the persistent pace of operations in Iraq and Afghanistan over the last several years has steadily increased the number of troops not available for deployment in the Army” at the same time the Administration has called for more troops for Afghanistan. Without these additional soldiers, which he acknowledged would result in “additional tough choices” in a fiscally strained environment, the Army’s ability to deploy combat units would be “at risk.” (Transcript of press conference)