WASHINGTON (AP) — The Pentagon said Tuesday its spending plan for 2015 would begin to reshape the military after more than a decade of war without lessening America's commitment to support European allies at a time of tension with Russia.
The proposed $496 billion budget reflects what Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel calls a choice to field a smaller but more modern force rather than a larger one less prepared for combat. Some in Congress, however, see that as an approach that weakens U.S. capabilities in a period of growing uncertainty in Europe and Asia.
The proposed budget is part of a $3.9 trillion federal budget that President Barack Obama sent to Congress Tuesday.
Under the proposed defense plan, the Army would shrink from 490,000 active-duty soldiers to 440,000-450,000 over the coming five years — the smallest since 1940, prior to the buildup for World War II, when the Army had 267,000 active-duty troops and did not have the global commitments of today's Army.
The budget retains a commitment to NATO and to building a missile defense system in Europe. Land-based missile interceptors would be deployed in Romania in 2015 and in Poland in 2018, under the Pentagon plan. The overall missile defense budget would be $8.5 billion.
In previewing the budget last week, Hagel described it as the first to fully reflect the nation's transition from 13 years of war.
"Although the future force will be smaller, it will be ready, capable and able to project power over great distances," Hagel wrote in the introduction to a strategy review released Tuesday as a companion to the budget.
The companion document, required by Congress and called the 2014 Quadrennial Defense Review, was written prior to Russia's military moves on the Crimea region of Ukraine. It said that while the administration will continue shifting its focus toward the Asia-Pacific region, Europe will remain an important partner.