WASHINGTON - The Pentagon will send six new combat brigades to bases in Texas, Georgia and Colorado in the coming years as part of an extensive plan to enlarge the Army.
As the Army moves to grow by 74,000 soldiers by 2010, officials yesterday mapped out decisions to add the combat brigades and eight support units around the country, as well an agreement to delay moving two brigades out of Germany until 2012-2013. The overall effort would cost $66.4 billion across 743 military construction projects through 2013.
Fort Bliss in Texas, Fort Carson in Colorado, and Fort Stewart in Georgia will be big winners, with each getting two new combat brigades. But every Army installation across the country will see more soldiers - anywhere from a few to thousands.
A brigade is generally about 3,500 soldiers, but its size can vary depending on the type of unit. Fort Stewart will lose one of its existing heavy brigades, but will have a net gain of nearly 4,000 troops.
Gen. Richard Cody, the Army vice chief of staff, said the Army took "a hard look at where we could station this force . . . and give them a quality of life that is equal to their quality of service to the nation."
Cody also echoed recent statements by Defense Secretary Robert Gates saying that as the Army grew, the Pentagon could eventually shorten deployment times from 15 months back to 12 months. Gates has said it was not likely to happen until late next year.
Reducing deployments will depend on how fast the Army can grow and how quickly the number of troops deployed can be decreased, Cody said. There are now 158,000 U.S. troops in Iraq, but that is expected to drop over the next six months as the five brigades sent in early this year for the troop buildup depart and are not replaced.
Cody said the decision to keep two brigades in Germany for several more years was based on requests from commanders in Europe to maintain troop levels there, and the need to ensure that troops returning to the United States had proper housing and other facilities at their new base.
One brigade in Germany would move to Fort Bliss in 2012, and a second brigade would move from Germany to White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico in 2013.
The massive plan will affect 304 Army installations, including 380,000 soldiers and family members. The construction projects include 69,000 barracks spaces, 4,100 family housing units, and 66 child centers.