OLYMPIA – Gov. Jay Inslee said Washington is well-prepared to manage the downsizing at JBLM announced today by the Department of Defense and the Army.
The Department of Defense (DoD) said it plans to reduce the size of the Army across the nation by 40,000 troops over the next two years. The Army also announced Joint Base Lewis McChord (JBLM) will lose 1,250 active duty personnel over the next two years. Army leaders had previously discussed reductions at JBLM as high as 11,000. Inslee and congressional and local leaders challenged DoD’s impact analysis and sought to make the case for Washington as a strategic choice for maintaining Army and DoD installations.
“Given the potential scale of reductions that could have taken place, we’re in an especially good position to manage these reductions,” Inslee said. “Today’s news is as good as we could have hoped for, and I thank all the congressional and local leaders who helped make the case for Washington state and helped us be as prepared as possible. I am committed to ensuring that every service member or family member impacted by today's decision is provided the resources they need to transition seamlessly. We know there may be more in the future and our work isn’t done.”
Today’s number does not include the Western Regional Medical Command personnel who will be moved to Tripler Army Medical Center in Hawaii when its headquarters is relocated. Today’s number also does not reflect the reduction in DoD civilian employees at JBLM, which DoD is expected to announce this fall.
JBLM has already absorbed some Army reductions including the loss of the 4/2 Stryker Brigade Combat Team in 2013. Still unknown is the impact of potential future cuts at JBLM should the Army be forced to drawdown to 420,000 personnel as a result of federal cuts known as sequestration.
The Army’s reduction and realignment plan also includes conversion of the Washington National Guard’s 81st Armored Brigade Combat Team to a Stryker Brigade, a move Inslee has been requesting. The conversion means the Washington National Guard’s Abrams Tanks and Bradley Fighting Vehicles will be replaced with more modern Stryker vehicles.
“Our tanks and Bradleys are critical for our federal mission, however, they’re too heavy to move on our local roads making them almost useless following a state disaster,” said Major General Bret Daugherty, the state’s adjutant general and commander of the Washington National Guard. “The Strykers are a more mobile, versatile vehicle that will ensure the Washington National Guard can get out into our communities and perform its mission to save lives and protect property here at home.”
Inslee has been working for months with defense community leaders to prepare and plan for reductions. He created a Military and Defense Sector lead at his Department of Commerce and reconvened the Washington Military Alliance. His Administration secured a $4.3 million DoD grant to focus on the state’s response to defense businesses in the wake of a reduction in defense spending.
“This has truly been a statewide effort,” said Rich Hadley, co-chair of the Washington Military Alliance. “I applaud the approach taken by the governor and his Administration that has allowed us to influence the decision at JBLM and prepare for impacts that ripple through the entire military and defense community.”
The governor convened an 11 agency Subcabinet on Military Downsizing to prepare a state response plan in anticipation of the Army’s downsizing announcement today. Department of Commerce Director Brian Bonlender chairs the group.
The subcabinet’s primary focus has been to prepare a plan for scalable responses to workforce training needs 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 draft plan, currently under review, will incorporate the numbers announced today and finalize the scalable response for implementation across agencies later this month. The draft plan and centralized resource information for impacted personnel, families and communities can be found at http://www.governor.wa.gov/militarydownsizing.
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.