U.S. defense officials are declining comment on reports they may be planning deep cuts in America's troop strength. The Pentagon is reviewing its needs and will present the findings to Congress next month.
The Bush administration is expected to use the assessment to put its own stamp on the armed services. This could mean reducing troop levels to pay for missile defense and other high-technology weapons that some officials favor.
According to some reports, the Army could lose nearly three divisions or 56,000 soldiers. The proposal also would idle as many as 16 Air Force fighter squadrons and one or two of the Navy's dozen aircraft carrier battle groups.
However, Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz says no decisions have yet been made. "It really is honestly too early to answer that," he said. "We don't know either what we're going to need in the way of resources or where we may have too many."
It also is not clear which parts of the world might see the most cuts. A troop reduction in Europe could re-ignite fears among allies that the United States is pulling back from the region.
Mr. Wolfowitz notes the U.S. presence in Europe has grown in the past few years because of Balkan peacekeeping missions. But he adds that the larger picture has changed with the end of the Cold War. He says, "The threat in Europe is, I think, indisputably lower than the threat in other parts of the world."
Some potential cutbacks have already touched off an angry reaction in Congress. There also are reports of friction between the Bush administration and senior officers in the four services.
But, the vice-chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Richard Meyers, denies suggestions of an all-out split. He says, "This notion that there is uniforms versus civilian leadership is a notion that just, in my view, is not supportable."
Still, Pentagon leaders have so far gotten less than expected from Mr. Bush, who campaigned on a pledge to rescue the armed forces from what he called years of neglect. The review of military structure and strategy will be presented to Congress at the end of next month.