- Associated Press - Thursday, July 9, 2015

FORT LEONARD WOOD, Mo. (AP) - Although Fort Leonard Wood will lose about 15 percent of its active-duty troops in the next two years, the Army reductions announced Thursday could have been much worse, several of Missouri’s political leaders said.

The reduction of 774 troops out of 5,168 active-duty soldiers at the south-central Missouri installation is a fraction of the Army’s plan to trim active-duty troops from 490,000 to 450,000 by the end of fiscal year 2017. The civilian workforce will be reduced nationally by as many as 17,000 over the same period, but the details aren’t expected to be announced until September.

Fort Leonard Wood leaders do not yet have a breakdown of where the reductions will occur, spokesman Tiffany Wood said.

The Army’s initial Supplemental Programmatic Environmental Assessment suggested the fort could lose up to 5,400 civilian and military positions by 2020, a prospect that drew more than 2,000 people to a listening session in early March to urge the Army to reconsider such drastic reductions. That high turnout was one of the reasons the reductions announced Thursday were not higher, political leaders said.

“While budgetary constraints have forced the Army to make difficult decisions, today’s announcement confirms what Missourians already know: Fort Leonard Wood will continue to play a critical role in the training and development of our troops,” according to a joint statement from U.S. Sens. Claire McCaskill, a Democrat, and Republican Roy Blunt, and Republican U.S. Rep. Vicky Hartzler.

State Rep. Steve Lynch, R-Waynesville, whose district includes part of the base, also said the turnout had a “direct impact” on the decision.

“It is a huge victory for my district and the state of Missouri, which will pay dividends in the future,” Lynch said.

The limited reductions reaffirm the fort’s core mission of training, Gov. Jay Nixon said in a statement, adding that it’s a testament to efforts to protect the fort.

Only Secretary of State Jason Kander, a former Army captain who deployed to Afghanistan before serving at Fort Leonard Wood from 2007 to 2011, criticized the Army’s reductions.

“The men and women that serve at Fort Leonard Wood provide unequaled expertise that makes our military operations more effective and efficient across the country,” said Kander, a Democrat who is challenging Blunt in next year’s U.S. Senate election.

Sustainable Ozarks Partnership, a nonprofit that advocates for the fort and development in the Fort Leonard Wood region, praised the lower number of reductions.

“While it is true that Fort Leonard Wood will see reductions that will hurt the region and state, it is important to note that many other installations fared considerably worse, in some cases losing thousands of uniformed positions,” president Brian Henry said.

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This story has been corrected to show the correct percentage loss is 15 percent, not 11 percent, and number of active-duty soldiers is 5,168, not about 6,600.


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