The U.S. Army is reportedly preparing to reduce its numbers by 40,000 soldiers over the next two years, bringing its total down to 450,000.
With the alleged cut of 40,000, the armed forces will reach its lowest number of soldiers since 1940, according to a document that USA Today obtained. An additional 17,000 civilian employees will lose their jobs in the plan, according to Time.
The Army has refused to comment on the report, but the plan is reportedly set to be announced this week.
The alleged plan has already drawn criticism from lawmakers.
“One person who's going to be very pleased with this is Vladimir Putin,” said Republican Sen. Dan Sullivan of Alaska. He added that given the Obama administration’s recent military focus on Asia and Russia, reducing troops in his state made no strategic sense.
Not all of the cuts were unexpected. According to the report, the Army increased the number of soldiers to 570,000 during the expansion of its operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, and it was intended that this level would drop following the completion of these missions.
But President Barrack Obama indicated Monday that the latest U.S. operation in Iraq had a long way to go.
“This will not be quick. This is a long-term campaign,” Obama said of the U.S.-led mission against Islamic State forces in Iraq and Syria.
A total of 3,500 U.S. troops are currently in Iraq training local forces.
In the absence of a budget deal between Democrats and Republicans, another 40,000 soldiers could be laid off in October, USA Today noted.
But Pentagon officials are confident that automatic budget cuts, known as sequestration, can be averted.
“Because of the President's strong veto threat, and because we've now demonstrated veto-sustaining votes in the House and Senate, things have changed,” Deputy Defense secretary Bob Work said last month, according to Defense News. “The whole point of this is to try and encourage both sides of the aisle and both chambers of Congress to get together and do another Ryan-Murray-type bipartisan budget agreement.
"That is the purpose of our strategy. And at least right now, we have set up the conditions for that to occur.”