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Troop cut may cost fort 2,700 soldiers, civil service
Sierra Vista Heraild ^ | Bill Hess

Posted on 03/20/2014 6:15:16 AM PDT by SandRat

FORT HUACHUCA — A reduction of 2,700 positions on this southern Arizona Army post is possible in the next five years, as the Army looks at a proposed end-strength of 420,000 soldiers, the post’s senior commander told the Herald/Review Wednesday.

But before the Army makes any decisions impacting the fort, and other of its installations, there will be a Programmatic Environmental Assessment (PEA), allowing area community and business leaders, and the general public, to comment on on any environmental or socio-economic impacts such a reduction will have, Maj. Gen. Robert P. Ashley said.

“For Fort Huachuca the planning (reduction) numbers are 1,700 military and 1,000 civil service (positions). Again it is not the (approved) number but part of the planning assessment which will take place over a period of five years,” said Ashley, who commands the Army Intelligence Center of Excellence and the fort.

In this case, the numbers are “installation-wide,” meaning they include all the military organizations on the post, he said.

Although the PEA is not addressing civilian contractors, by the nature of the Army reducing in size that part of the service’s workforce will be impacted as well, the general said.

“We will have a reduction in the contract force, just in the nature of the budget process,” he said.

With nearly a dozen years of war-footing, with deployments of soldiers to Iraq and Afghanistan ending, it will allow for soldiers to be put into positions for which contractors were hired to fill, Ashley said.

But the contractor issue “is not the focus of the PEA,” he said.

What is about to happen, is what occurred in 2013 when a similar review involving the fort and 20 other Army installations was done, to include taking comments from the public, the general said.

Later this year, public comments will be taken as part of assessing 30 Army installations, including Fort Huachuca, with Ashley estimating remarks will be taken in the summer.

The 2013 program helped the Army come to decisions involving a strength of 490,000 active duty soldiers, but with the potential that the Army will have to cut another 70,000 soldiers to reach the projected 420,000 end strength in the next five years, the PEA is needed, Ashley said.

If for some reason another sequestration has to be done in Fiscal Year 2016, there could be even more reductions needed, Ashley said.

But for now the process the Army is doing is aimed at meeting the 420,000 soldier limit by 2020, he said.

While “for planning purposes” the fort has a total reduction of 2,700 — soldiers and civil service positions — it doesn’t mean all of them will be cut, Ashley said.

Whatever cuts are made will be based on the actual budgets the Army receives during the next five years, and it will be “an evolving process,” the general said.

And, Ashley said, when it comes to the fort, he and other senior leaders on the installation are continuing their work to showcase the fort’s capabilities for such things as special unit training.

“We are still going forward with those plans,” he said.

In the mix, of reducing personnel needs, the “Army still supports a BRAC in 2017,” the general said.

A Base Realignment and Closure Commission process “gets into the cost of running facilities, how do we become more efficient, as we become smaller,” he said.

With the coming reduction in personnel, better use of dwindling dollars has to be a major part of the decision-making, the general said.

When it comes to a BRAC, “we’ve got to be real smart economically, we can’t waste money for infrastructure that can be applied to training soldiers,” Ashley said.

As for the PEA, the general emphasized it was a process for making decisions.

“This is strictly planning. It’s not a decision, it’s an assessment,” he said. “It will be a formula to figure out the environmental and socio-economic impact.”

The bottom line will be the funds the Army receive and how to use them wisely, the general said.

“It’s reality from a fiscal standpoint. We’ve got to do due diligence and hard work to live within the means of what the budgets will allow us to do to,” Ashley said.

TOPICS: Business/Economy; Government; US: Arizona
KEYWORDS: cuts; fundung; huachuca; obama

1 posted on 03/20/2014 6:15:16 AM PDT by SandRat
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