WASHINGTON - The Army plans to slash the number of combat brigades from 45 to as low as 32 in a broad restructuring of its fighting force aimed at cutting costs and reducing the service by about 80,000 soldiers, according to US officials familiar with the plans.
Officials said the changes will probably increase the size of each combat brigade - generally by adding another battalion - in an effort to ensure that those remaining brigades have the fighting capabilities they need when they go to war. A brigade is usually about 3,500 soldiers, but can be as large as 5,000 for the heavily armored units. A battalion is usually between 600 and 800 soldiers.
The brigade restructuring is intended to save money without eroding the military’s ability to protect the country.
Army officials contend that while there would be fewer brigades, building them bigger will give them more capabilities and depth and will reduce stress on the units.
They said specialty units, such as Army special operations forces, would not be affected.
Reducing the overall number of brigades will also eliminate the need for the headquarters units that oversee them.