A police force of almost 7,000 officers in Northern Ireland is not sustainable, the deputy chief constable said.
An independent inspectorate claimed plans to increase the number of PSNI officers are unaffordable because of tight budgets.
Drew Harris warned of further reductions despite a review recommending a strength of 6,963.
"The reality is that this will not be sustainable," he said. "By April 2016 we will have around 200 fewer officers due to a high number of officers retiring and limited scope for recruitment."
Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Constabulary (HMIC) said the service had yet to reconcile the drive to grow numbers with efforts to cut posts at district levels and warned of a £104m gap by 2018/19. HMIC said the PSNI did not yet have a model which would match its budget.