Agencies to focus on coordinated state response to potential military reductions.
OLYMPIA – Governor Jay Inslee today announced the formation of a Subcabinet on Military Downsizing to address possible reductions in military force in the state.
As a result of deep cuts outlined under sequestration and with a reduction in deployments after more than a decade of war, the United States military is reducing and realigning their forces throughout the country.
Active duty Army strength is expected to be reduced from 570,000 troops to less than 440,000 nationally. As part of this action, the Department of Defense (DOD) has considered potential reductions of up to 11,000 active duty soldiers and DOD civilian personnel at Joint Base Lewis-McChord (JBLM).
Though all branches of the Armed Services will likely be impacted, the Army has, to date, provided greater detail as to the potential for reductions. While the Army has made no official announcement yet, the state is preparing for a final decision for JBLM as early as late June.
“There is an all-hands-on-deck effort to make the case to DOD that Washington is the right place to keep service members, DOD civilians and their families,” said Inslee, who has already made the case to DOD that such deep cuts would have grievous effects on Washington’s economy. “It is also vital that we are prepared to respond to any reductions. This has the potential to be a once-in-a-generation challenge of a size and scope that will impact our communities and economy for years to come.”
“Our first priority, should a significant reduction take place, is ensuring impacted service members and civilians receive the education, training and employer connections necessary to find work quickly as they transition out of life at JBLM,” Inslee continued.
The subcabinet consists of eleven state agencies directly involved in the state’s downsizing response plan. Department of Commerce Director Brian Bonlender will chair the group. Its primary focus is to prepare a plan for scalable and appropriate responses related to workforce training and re-employment of transitioning service members, DOD civilians and contractors; mitigating impacts to the local communities around the installations; and preparing for economic development and revitalization opportunities in the event of a large scale force reduction.
The subcabinet comes as a result of a larger effort by the governor to focus on the military and defense community as a key economic sector in the state. Starting with the creation of the Military and Defense Sector at the state, along with reconvening and formalizing the Washington Military Alliance, the governor was instrumental in supporting the state’s effort to secure a $4.8 million DOD grant to focus on the state’s response to defense businesses in the wake of a reduction in defense spending.
The military and defense sector plays a significant role in Washington’s economy. In 2013, DOD spending in Washington topped $13.1 billion dollars and represented 3.2 percent of the state’s GDP. Washington ranks in the top ten states for military spending and is the 6th most military populated state. Of the 112,560 military personnel in Washington, over half reside in the South Puget Sound.
“Reduction of military forces would have far-reaching and long-lasting impacts in Washington, especially to the service members, DOD civilians and their families who call this place home,” Bonlender said. “Governor Inslee is committed to helping these military families and the communities they live in to transition successfully.”
The subcabinet will convene on June 17.