WASHINGTON - The US Marine Corps said on Wednesday it would cut four infantry battalions and 12 flying squadrons over the next five years as it shrinks by 20,000 personnel to meet budget constraints and peacetime needs after more than a decade of war.
The biggest cuts would fall on Marine Corps bases in North Carolina, with Camp Lejeune and the adjacent New River air base losing 5,800 personnel and Cherry Point air base losing another 2,100. Three California Marine bases - Camp Pendleton, 29 Palms and Miramar - would lose a total of 6,000 personnel.
Lieutenant General Richard Mills, head of the Combat Development Command, said the reductions would take place over five years "on a slope as opposed to a cliff" and would take place through "natural attrition," giving Marines a chance to serve out the terms of their contracts.
"The impact on the individual Marine will mostly be through re-enlistments," Mills said. "We're obviously going to ... need fewer Marines, so re-enlistments will tighten up. A Marine is ... really going to have to be professionally qualified, personally qualified and really be top performers to find a slot to stay in the career force."
The cuts are part of the Pentagon's efforts to reduce projected spending by $487 billion over the next decade as called for in a budget agreement last autumn between Congress and US President Barack Obama.