In 1940, as Americans struggled with the lingering affects of the Great Depression, the U.S. Army had only 267,000 members on active duty.
As the country prepared to enter World War II, the following year, that number skyrocketed to 1.46 million. While the number of active-duty personnel has fluctuated in the sixty-plus years since, the Army has remained far above those pre-World War II levels.
Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel wants to change all that. At a Pentagon briefing yesterday, he said, "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."
Today, the Army has 522,000 soldiers on active duty. Hagel's proposed Pentagon budget would cut manpower even further, to somewhere between 440,000 and 450,000.
Many Pentagon officials have tried and failed to reduce troop levels over the last sixty years. Retired Army colonel Andrew Bacevich, professor of international relations at Boston University and author of "Breach of Trust: How Americans Failed Their Soldiers and Their Country," discusses whether Secretary Hagel might succeed where others have failed. He also examines what these cuts might mean for the future of the U.S. military.