What does Donald Trump have in store for the nation’s military when he takes over as commander in chief?
The short answer: More soldiers, more Navy ships and more fighter jets.
That’s all part of Trump’s “vision” outlined on his campaign website, and includes increasing the size of the Army to 540,000 active-duty soldiers.
Currently, there are about 475,000 soldiers on active duty. The Army has been downsizing for about five years, and because of increased budget cuts, announced a plan in 2015 to shrink the force to 450,000 soldiers by 2018. That’s down from about 570,000 a few years ago.
Trump’s message of a stronger, bigger military was welcome rhetoric to current and former military leaders who have been discussing for years the strains that downsizing has caused on the armed forces.
“In his campaign, he said the right things,” said retired Lt. Gen. Dave Palmer, a Bell County resident. “He said we need to take care of our veterans and increase the size of our military.”
Trump’s likelihood of increasing military numbers will be fueled by the Republicans again gaining control of both the House and Senate, said Palmer, a former brigade commander at Fort Hood who also commanded the 1st Armored Division in Germany.
“He’s got, fortunately, a Republican House and a Republican Senate,” Palmer said.
It’s the first time since 2007 that Republicans have controlled both the executive and legislative branches of government.
What does increased Army troop numbers mean for Fort Hood?
It “quite likely” means that Fort Hood’s military population — which as of Oct. 5 was 36,768 soldiers and airmen — will also grow, Palmer said.
“Fort Hood has the ability that no other post in America has — handling two divisions,” Palmer said.
An Army division can have 20,000 or more soldiers. Currently, Fort Hood is home to one full combat division — the 1st Cavalry Division — but the post has been home to two divisions simultaneously in the past, reaching a soldier population of 50,000 or more.
If Army troop levels do increase, that will likely mean more combat units added to the Army’s arsenal, Palmer said. And Fort Hood — with its many combat training ranges and room to absorb more units — is a likely placement option, said the retired three-star general.
At a luncheon in Killeen on Friday, III Corps and Fort Hood commander Lt. Gen. Sean MacFarland discussed the struggles of the current force to operate under diminishing conditions.
“(The U.S. Army has) about 186,000 or so soldiers deployed around the world right now and our Army is shrinking. Despite that tempo, we are losing manpower all the time,” MacFarland said. III Corps and Fort Hood “has lost about 10 percent of our strength, as has the Army.”
Killeen Mayor Jose Segarra said he supports the idea of reinvesting in Army soldiers.
“According to his policies and what he has said he is very pro-military,” Segarra said. “I think reinvesting in our soldiers on Fort Hood will have a good trickle down effect for our community.”
Texas House District 54 Representative Jimmie Don Aycock agreed, saying that he felt Trump’s stated pro-military stance would benefit Texas.
Other parts of Trump’s vision for the military, according to his website, include:
Work with Congress to fully repeal the defense sequester and submit a new budget to rebuild our depleted military.
Rebuild the U.S. Navy toward a goal of 350 ships, as the bipartisan National Defense Panel has recommended.
Provide the U.S. Air Force with the 1,200 fighter aircraft they need.
Grow the U.S. Marine Corps to 36 battalions.
Invest in a serious missile defense system to meet growing threats from Iran and North Korea.
Protect all vital infrastructure and create a state-of-the-art cyber-defense and -offense.
Conducting a full audit of the Pentagon, eliminating incorrect payments, reducing duplicative bureaucracy, collecting unpaid taxes, and ending unwanted and unauthorized federal programs.
Trump’s website cited the Air Force Times and other publications, which reported the average age of Air Force aircraft is 27 years old, and the Navy is among the smallest it has been since before World War I.