WASHINGTON – The Army will increase its size by sending two new combat brigades to U.S. bases in Texas, Georgia and Colorado in the coming years, according to an extensive new plan unveiled Wednesday.
As the Army moves to grow by 74,000 soldiers by 2010, officials mapped out decisions to add six new brigade combat teams and eight support units around the country, as well an agreement to delay moving two brigades out of Germany until 2012-2013. The overall effort would cost $66.4 billion in 743 military construction projects through 2013.
Fort Bliss in Texas, Fort Carson in Colorado and Fort Stewart in Georgia will be big winners — each getting roughly 7,000 more soldiers and their families. But every Army installation across the country will see more soldiers — anywhere from a few to thousands.
Gen. Richard Cody, the Army vice chief of staff, said the Army took "a hard look at where we could station this force ... and give them a quality of life that is equal to their quality of service to the nation."
Cody also echoed recent statements by Defense Secretary Robert Gates saying that as the size of the Army grows, the Pentagon will eventually be able to shorten deployment times from the current 15 months back to 12 months. Gates has said it is not likely to happen until late next year.
Reducing deployments, Cody said, will depend on how fast the Army can grow and how quickly the number of troops deployed can be decreased. There are currently 158,000 troops in Iraq, but that number is expected to come down over the next six months as the five brigades sent in early this year for the troop buildup leave, and are not replaced.
Cody said the decision to keep two brigades in Germany for several more years was based on requests from commanders in Europe to maintain troop levels there, as well as the need to ensure that troops returning to the U.S. had proper housing and other facilities at their new base.
One of the brigades in Germany would move to Fort Bliss in 2012, and a second brigade would move from Germany to White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico in 2013.
Information about the plan began to trickle out early Wednesday as Army officials spread out across Capitol Hill, talking to the members of Congress who will see growth in their districts. And Cody was among those spreading the holiday cheer.
"I spoke with General Cody this morning about the Army's future growth plans and what that will mean for our Texas bases," said Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison, R-Texas. "I have worked and advocated strongly for bringing troops home from overseas and today the Army has announced they will bring 14,000 new troops to Texas."
Three of the support brigades will also go to Texas — with an air defense brigade and a logistics brigade going to Fort Hood, and another unit going to Fort Bliss. The other support brigades would be scattered around the U.S. — with two going to Schofield Barracks in Hawaii, one to Fort Leonard Wood in Missouri, one to Fort Lewis in Washington and one to Fort Polk in Louisiana.
In addition, a support unit in Fort Irwin, Calif., will shift to Fort Richardson in Alaska, and another will go from Hawaii to Fort Drum in New York.
The massive plan will impact 304 Army installations, including 380,000 soldiers and family members. The construction projects include 69,000 barracks spaces, 4,100 family housing units and 66 child centers.
Plans are to increase the number of the active-duty Army, Army Guard and Army Reserve by 74,000 overall, with the active-duty force growing by 65,000 to a total of 547,000. In October, top Army leaders said they planned to move faster to increase the size of the force — adding the full 74,000 soldiers by 2010, two years sooner than originally planned.
Accelerating the increase is aimed to relieve the strain on forces already stretched by the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Originally the growth was to take place over five years, now it will be done in three.
The active-duty troop increase — which will boost the number of combat brigades from the 2006 level of 42 to 48 — will cost $2.63 billion.
Roughly half of the 65,000 increase has already been achieved.