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Pay is up, end strength is down in Pentagon Budget

The Defense Department wants to sink more than $5 billion into personnel next year, with a 2.7-percent pay raise and an extra $200 million in family support programs, according to the fiscal year 2022 budget request released Friday.

The proposal would also drop the military’s overall end strength by about 5,400, at a time of historically high retention, according to budget documents.

 The Army, projected to stand at 1,012,300 soldiers on Oct. 1, will come down to 1,010,500. Included in that are 485,000 active-duty soldiers, roughly the same level the Army has held for the past year, and 900 fewer than what the budget called for in FY21.

The freeze on force growth is a reversal of a plan launched in 2017, when the Army announced a goal to reach 500,000 active-duty by the end of 2022.

“I can’t tell you what the Army end strength will be. I know it has to be above 500,000. I know it has to be above 500,000 in the regular Army – and I’ve always said associated growth in the Guard and Reserve,” then-Army Secretary Mark Esper, who went on to be defense secretary, told Army Times in 2019. “But our war games could come out and tell us – in two years, or a year and a half – that we really need 504,000. Or it could come out and tell us that we need 540,000.”

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