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US defense chief proposes big cuts to Army's budget

WASHINGTON--U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel is recommending shrinking the Army to its smallest size in decades in an effort to balance defense needs with budget realities, according to defense officials.

Hagel is expected to announce that and other recommendations Monday in a speech at the Pentagon outlining his priorities for next year's defense budget.

Army leaders have been saying for months that they expected to absorb additional troop reductions as the nation prepares to end its combat role in Afghanistan this year. The Army is already scheduled to shrink to 490,000 active-duty members from a wartime peak of 570,000. Hagel is expected to propose cutting it further to between 440,000 and 450,000.

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