The Army could lose its next generation of military leaders after nearly twice as many of its officers and soldiers applied for voluntary redundancy as expected.
Army bosses had asked for 500 servicemen take voluntary redundancy, but have received more than 900 applications, according to figures obtained by the Daily Telegraph.
Military bosses asked 25 colonels to put themselves forward, but received 52 applications.
Six brigadiers and 48 majors, with an average of 16 years experience each, have also asked to go.
Several future battalion leaders and two officers singled out as potential generals are believed to be among the applicants.
The newspaper said a combination of low morale and concerns that the Army is in a "permanent state of decline" are being blamed for the surge in applications.
The Ministry of Defence has refused to confirm the figures but said the Army would choose who to give the redundancy packages and would not be offering them to their "brightest people".
Army chief Brigadier Richard Nugee, head of Army Manning, said "a mixture of personnel for redundancy across all cap badges, ranks and trades" would be selected.
He insisted the "right balance of experience" will be preserved to ensure the military "is able to maintain its operational commitments and to continue its outstanding service in the future".
The Army announced in April that it would make thousands of soldiers redundant to cope with defence cuts.
The defence budget is set to fall by 8% over the next four years.
The MoD is to cut its civilian personnel by 25,000 by 2015 and Army numbers will be reduced by 7,000 to 95,500.
A report is due to be published next month on how more personnel and equipment
programmes could be axed.