Budget cuts have made the Army’s ‘E-4 mafia’ stronger than ever

Pfc. Sidney Ruth (right) of Varnville, S.C., 1-178th Field Artillery Battalion, South Carolina Army National Guard, was promoted to specialist, July 14, 2010 by Capt. Chris Plummer (left), during a ceremony at Camp Phoenix, Kabul, Afghanistan. Photo credit: Capt. Christopher Neeley

The Army is on track with its plan to let go of 40,000 more soldiers in an effort to reduce its force to an overall active-duty strength of 450,000 soldiers.

In February of last year the Army dropped below 500,000 active-duty soldiers for the first time in ten years.

The ongoing reductions were driven by the Budget Control Act of 2011 and continuous budget cuts have ensured the reductions will affect nearly every CONUS and OCONUS Army installation, according to Brig. Gen. Randy George, director of force management in the Army G-3 (operations).

Since 2012, the Army has already cut almost 90,000 soldiers and shut down 13 brigade combat teams, including two in Germany and one in South Korea, to reach an end-strength of 481,741.

The Army’s goal is to reduce to 450,000 active-duty soldiers by the end of fiscal 2018 – which means the Army has about 21 months to cut almost 30,000 more soldiers.

The largest cuts this year will be at Fort Benning and Fort Hood which will each lose about 3,000 soldiers.  These reductions have made a noticeably difference in the amount of personnel in each of the enlisted ranks.

Soldiers in the paygrade of E-4 now make up almost one third (31%) of the entire enlisted active-duty Army.  Over the period of the last year the Army added another 4,000 E-4’s while every NCO rank saw significant reductions.

The shift in personnel in each enlisted rank suggests these personnel cuts won’t be made from the recruiting quotas but from the “promotion boards”.

Soldiers in the rank of Specialist can either embrace their place in the “E-4 mafia” as it may become a promotion purgatory while the Army continues to slim its NCO ranks or enter the civilian world as many have already done.

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