U.S. Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates has approved a plan to increase the size of the active-duty Army to 547,000 by 2010, two years sooner than planned, The New York Times reported Wednesday.
Gates approved the accelerated timetable in a Sept. 26 memo that also barred the Army from reaching the goal by lowering its recruiting standards or employing "stop loss," a practice of prohibiting soldiers from retiring, according to the report.
The acceleration aims to ease the strain put on the military by the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
The memo put the plan's cost at 2.6 billion U.S. dollars over the next five years.
Army officials said they could achieve the increase through retention and recruiting, but conceded that achieving the goal in three years, rather than five, was ambitious.
The planned increase would be from an authorized level of 512,000 last year.