- Associated Press - Thursday, January 22, 2015

LAKEWOOD, Wash. (AP) - More than 500 Washington residents showed up Wednesday at a forum hosted by the Army to gather public feedback about a proposal to slash about 11,000 jobs at Joint Base Lewis-McChord over the next five years.

The broad reduction of active-duty soldiers is unfolding at bases around the country.

The base near Tacoma is Pierce County’s largest employer.

The speakers wanted to make sure visiting Pentagon officials knew that Washington state values the facility and its impact on local communities, The News Tribune reported (http://is.gd/8dbvIP).

“The state of Washington fully embraces military families and the military mission” of Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Gov. Jay Inslee said.

The base lost about 5,000 soldiers to a previous round of Army downsizing.

DuPont Mayor Michael Grayum said he fears the cuts will hurt both businesses and real estate in his city.

Grayum and others made the point that the Army invested more than $2.4 billion building up Joint Base Lewis-McChord during the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. They also noted that the base has strategic significance, lying west of the Rockies and offering easy access to ports and airfields.

“At a distance of only 17 miles, no other installation is closer to a strategic port than Joint Base Lewis-McChord,” Port of Tacoma Commissioner Dick Marzano said.

Local economies could see “recession-like” consequences in a large drawdown, speakers warned. The south Puget Sound region would lose about $970 million in annual income if the worst-case cuts happen at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, the Defense Department says.

“We need the jobs here,” Lakewood resident Tom James said.

Joint Base Lewis-McChord currently has 27,600 active-duty soldiers, about 16,000 civilian employees and about 5,000 Air Force personnel, the newspaper said.

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Information from: The News Tribune, http://www.thenewstribune.com

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