The top Army officer said Wednesday that the Army may begin moving to 12-month battlefield tours this summer, a shift seen as critical to reducing the strain on a force that has been enduring 15-month deployments.
Gen. George Casey, chief of staff of the Army, said that as the number of brigades in Iraq comes down from 20 to 15 over the next several months, officials will be able to begin increasing the amount of time soldiers spend at home between tours.
But Casey cautioned that he is "not going public with that or final with that until I'm sure we're not going back" on it.
Defense Secretary Robert Gates has said that moving from 15-month to 12-month deployments could come by the end of the year. But in comments to the Association of the U.S. Army's Institute of Land Warfare, Casey echoed Army predictions that the shorter tours could be announced this summer, and soon afterward would affect brigades heading overseas.
As top military leaders have visited U.S. bases and troops abroad, they have heard persistent complaints about the 15-month deployments from soldiers and their families.