WASHINGTON (AP) — A Pentagon official signaled on Wednesday that the Army could lay off as many as 24,000 enlisted personnel and up to 5,000 officers within five years to meet a projected reduction in the force driven by budget cuts and the winding down of two wars.

Pressed on the possibility of involuntary terminations, Thomas Lamont, an assistant secretary of the Army, told a Senate Armed Services panel that layoffs were possible as the Army shrinks from a peak of 570,000 to 490,000.

"I hate to throw out numbers, but I have seen numbers that would approach enlisted category perhaps as high as mid-20s, 23, 24,000," Lamont said. "On the officer contingent, again these are very rough numbers and all based again on assumptions and attrition rates, officers may go up" to 4,500 to 5,000.

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