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Dozens of lawmakers fight troop cuts

Members of the House National Guard and Reserve Caucus are calling on congressional defense leaders to halt the Pentagon's reduction in the size of the military as they negotiate a final National Defense Authorization Act.

In a letter outlining the caucus's priorities, 43 lawmakers urged the chairmen and ranking members of the House and Senate Armed Services Committees to adopt provisions from the House NDAA maintaining higher end strengths in both the active duty military and reserves.

The letter was organized by Reps. Tim Walz (D-Minn.) and Steven Palazzo (R-Miss.), who co-chair the caucus.

Lawmakers in both parties have been critical of the Pentagon's drawdown plan — particularly of the Army — arguing the military is taking on too much risk as worldwide threats grow.

The NDAA for next fiscal year passed by the House authorizes 480,000 active-duty troops in the Army, an increase of 5,000 from this year, and authorizes 185,000 active Marines, 1,000 more than this year. It also increases the Army Reserve and National Guard by 15,000 over this year. The Senate bill maintains the Pentagon's recommended levels.

In all, the letter cites 16 provisions from the House and Senate bills the caucus wants in the NDAA, including multiyear procurement authority for AH-64 Apache helicopters, extended Tricare health coverage for certain National Guard members during disaster response duty, and the administration's request for military health technicians.

The caucus also lodges "strong concerns" with three provisions from the Senate bill, including reductions in the number of general and flag officers.

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