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Budget changes could add, or cut, Fort Wainwright personnel

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Posted: Tuesday, January 22, 2013 12:01 am | Updated: 12:10 am, Wed Jan 23, 2013.

FAIRBANKS — Alaska’s two major Army posts could each lose more than 4,000 personnel each as the Army restructures for upcoming budget cuts, but reductions are not inevitable at Alaska’s bases. The bases that will lose soldiers haven’t been chosen and some bases might gain 1,000 people or more.

An environmental assessment released this month lists different options for shrinking the Army from 562,000 to 490,000 soldiers by 2020 as part of the Army’s role in reducing the nation’s budget deficit. One option would drop the number of the Army’s brigade combat teams (each about 4,000 soldiers) from 45 to no more than 37. A second option is to cut a larger number of brigade combat teams and increase the size of some of the remaining brigade combat teams.

If Fort Wainwright were chosen to lose its brigade combat team, the 1st Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 25th Infantry Division, it would reduce the base population by about 4,900 people, according to the assessment.

If Fort Richardson, near Anchorage, were chosen it would lose about 4,300 people. If either base kept its brigade combat team, the force might be supplemented by 1,000 people.

Alaska’s U.S. Senate delegation, which vocally opposed Air Force budget cuts that specifically mention Eielson Air Force Base, said Monday they’ll be watching the Army decisions closely.

Sen. Lisa Murkowski described the Army’s environmental assessment as a basis for future conversation and said it’s too early to tell what the Army will do, according to spokesman Matthew Felling.

Sen. Mark Begich in a prepared statement that Alaska bases “are strategically located and I believe they will remain important to the Army."

“I have been and will continue to work with the Army to advocate for a continued presence and the potential addition of soldiers at Fort Wainwright," he said.

While the Army has not picked individual bases for reductions, it has chosen some places not to make cuts, according to the environmental assessment. The Army does not plan to cut all bases by a uniform amount, does not plan to send more soldiers to overseas bases and does not plan to further reduce staffing at overseas bases.

Contact staff writer Sam Friedman at 459-7545.

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