Asked in the House of Commons whether the Harper government would contemplate cuts to the number of soldiers, sailors and aircrew, Nicholson pointed to the last federal budget, which stated the size of the Canadian Forces would remain steady.
The country's top military commander said earlier this week that while the federal government has not asked for reductions in force strength, the cabinet would have to grapple with the question as it examines a revised defence strategy.
Gen. Tom Lawson said he had been explicitly told by the prime minister not to cut bodies or capabilities, such as ships, aircraft and tanks.
But defence experts, including retired general Rick Hillier, have noted the defence department won't be able to reach its reduction targets without downsizing those in uniform.
Nicholson says the strength will remain at 68,000 full-time members and 27,000 reservists.
But he did not address how that might be affected by the new version of the Canada First Defence Strategy, which attempts to strike a balance between tightening budgets and the country's military expectations.
The NDP hammered away on the point, asking not only about personnel but whether the government was contemplating any base closures as part of the effort to save between $2.1 billion and $2.5 billion annually by 2014.
Nicholson said base closures were a tactic of the Liberals in the 1990s.