Army leaders weigh quickened growth rate

Recruiting and Retention Numbers for June 2007

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Editor's note: This story was updated at 10:20 a.m. July 16, 2007. Please go to Corrections & Clarifications to see what has changed.

With operations in Iraq putting continued strain on the Army, service leaders are weighing options to accelerate the planned growth of the ground service, according to military officials.

Early this year, Defense Secretary Robert Gates announced plans to swell the ranks of the active-duty Army by 65,000, bringing the total number from 518,000 to 547,000 by fiscal 2012. The increase would bring the number of brigade combat teams to 48  -- up from 42 -- by fiscal 2013, officials said. In addition, they said, the Army National Guard would grow by 8,000 and the Reserve by 1,000 through fiscal 2013.

Army Chief of Staff Gen. George Casey, who was commander of the Multi-National Force–Iraq until February, is now exploring options to accelerate those timelines with the goal of getting at 48 brigade combat teams before 2013, Army Lt. Gen. David Melcher told Federal Computer Week following his speech at AFCEA’s “Army IT Day” conference in Tysons Corner, Va., July 12.

Melcher is the military deputy for budget in the Office of the Assistant Secretary of the Army for financial management and comptroller.

He declined to say by how much Casey wants to speed up the service’s growth, saying only the chief of staff envisions a slight acceleration of the original timeline.

Melcher acknowledged that the Army could have a difficult time recruiting enough people to meet a compressed growth schedule. “People is going to be hard,” he said, adding there is no talk of the need for a draft in the deliberations.

As for equipping a bigger Army more quickly, Melcher said, “I’m not worried about that.”

One military source familiar with the deliberations said Casey’s thinking likely is driven by operations in Iraq, which are now in their fourth year. “When you look at potential drawdown timelines, the forces [to support those time lines] just may not be there,” the source said.

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