- The Washington Times - Thursday, July 9, 2015

Planned cuts to the Army’s end strength will touch nearly every base and will include some involuntary layoffs, officials said Thursday, though D.C.-area installations avoid the brunt of the reductions.

Beginning in October, the Army will begin cutting 40,000 soldiers, bringing the Army’s end strength from 490,000 to 450,000 by the end of fiscal 2018.

“These cuts will impact nearly every Army installation,” Brig. Gen. Randy George, director of force management, told reporters. “These are incredibly difficult choices.”

The cuts will come gradually, he said. The Army will reduce to 475,000 by the end of fiscal 2016, 460,000 by the end of fiscal 2017 and finally to 450,000 by the end of fiscal 2018.

D.C.-area bases will be spared from the majority of cuts, according to Army documents. Aberdeen Proving Grounds will lose 126 soldiers and Fort Belvoir will lose 250 soldiers. Fort Meade will actually gain 99 soldiers and is one of only three bases that will see an increase in personnel.

The largest cuts come at Fort Benning in Georgia and Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson in Alaska, which will both lost nearly 3,500 soldiers as a brigade combat team downsizes to an infantry battalion task force at both installations. The reduction in Alaska will represent a 59 percent decrease in the active duty Army population at the base.

Fort Hood in Texas will also lose more than 3,000 soldiers.

The Army is also cutting 17,000 civilians over the next three years, but is still reviewing where specifically those layoffs will happen, Gen. George said.

Members of Congress initially balked at the cuts, noting the detrimental effect they would have in their home districts. Sen. Johnny Isakson, Georgia Republican, said Wednesday that he would hold up the president’s nominee for a new congressional liaison to the Defense Department because he wasn’t given a “heads up” on the cuts.

Gen. George said the Army will submit notification in the next few days to members of Congress with a base in their home district that is losing more than 1,000 people.

The personnel cuts are expected to save about $7 billion over four years, Gen. George said.

When asked if the required cuts could be accomplished through attrition alone, Gen. George said the Army would “do as much as possible” through attrition, but would also be forced to kick out some good soldiers.

“I’ve had to look captains, majors, soldiers in the eyes — and good soldiers — and tell them that we’re reducing,” he said. “We do expect that will happen.

If lawmakers allow additional sequestration cuts to go into effect in October, the Army will have to reduce its force even further to a point officials say will put the country at risk and prevent the military from meeting its security missions.

“Today’s announcement may not be the last,” Gen. George said. “Unless the provisions of the Budget Control Act are changed or reversed, the Army will have to cut an additional 30,000 soldiers by 2019.”

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