ARLINGTON, Va. — Defense Secretary Robert Gates has tentatively approved the Army’s plan to increase its active-duty force to 547,000 by the end of fiscal 2010, Defense officials said.

The Army’s original plan was to grow from 512,000 to 547,000 by the end of fiscal 2012. However, the Army has accelerated its plan to add personnel by two years and to add extra structure — such as brigades and headquarters — by one year, an Army official said.

Gates tentatively approved the Army’s plan based on the conditions that the Army increase the size of its active-duty force without the use of stop loss and while meeting “established recruit quality standards,” according to a Sept. 26 memo from Gates to Army Secretary Pete Geren.

Gates also asked the Army to get back to him by Oct. 15 with quarterly targets for the size of the active-duty force as well as recruiting, retention and other factors that will help the Army reach the active-duty force’s desired “end strength,” or total size.

Gates also asks the Army to provide him quarterly reports on:

Progress in meeting its quarterly end-strength targets.Progress in reducing and eventually eliminating stop loss “as soon as feasible.”Recruiting and retention figures, and how the Army is sustaining the quality of recruits.Progress in standing up new brigades and other units.The readiness of new units to deploy.Progress in reducing the size and cost of the institutional army.Geren told reporters about the Army’s plan to get bigger faster at a Sept. 27 breakfast with reporters. Later that day, Gates told reporters he was “inclined to approve” the plan even though he had already done so.

At the time of the news conference, Gates couldn’t recall if he had signed the order authorizing the Army to accelerate its plan to get bigger, Pentagon spokesman Geoff Morrell said Tuesday.

“But he knew if he hadn’t, he would be doing so imminently,” Morrell said.

Also at the Sept. 27 news conference, Gates said he had some questions about the Army’s plan.

“My questions have focused principally on whether they can do it in terms of recruitment, and whether they can do so without lowering standards, and in fact to begin to move back toward the high standards of not too many months ago, principally in cases, for example, where the percentage of high school graduates, for example, is down, I think, around 76 percent.”

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