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US Army to Cut Hundreds of Anchorage Soldiers

By Austin Baird, Political, Rural Reporter, abaird@ktuu.com
Published On: Jan 08 2014 01:23:01 PM AKST
Updated On: Jan 08 2014 11:03:08 PM AKST

The military is making cuts that could impact national security and the local economy.

The army announced today the number of soldiers in Alaska will drop over the next year and a half due to force structure changes. Several hundred soldiers will be cut from Joint Base Elmendorf Richardson. 

ANCHORAGE -

Fort Wainwright will gain a few hundred soldiers by fall of 2015, but the U.S. Army will have a shrinking presence in Alaska over the next couple years.

After announcing planned cuts last June, Army officials said Wednesday that roughly 367 soldiers will be added to Fort Wainwright in Fairbanks by the end of the 2015 fiscal year.

Anchorage’s Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, however, will shed an estimated 780 soldiers.

Including other changes at U.S. Army Alaska facilities, there will be approximately 370 fewer soldiers in the state by September 2015 when the federal fiscal year ends.

The Army-directed effort to reduce and reorganize its active force to 490,000 soldiers stems from a congressional mandate under the Budget Control Act of 2011.

The overall reduction amounts to a loss of 80,000 Army soldiers across the country.

Lt. Col. Alan Brown, U.S. Army Alaska spokesperson, said the relative loss to Alaska’s force means the state is faring relatively well compared to others.

“I think it really underscores the strategic significance of Alaska, and it also highlights the amount of public support we get,” Brown said.

But cuts to the military could have a negative impact on Anchorage's economy.

When the Air Force was considering the relocation of the F-16 Aggressor Squadron from Eielson Air Force Base to JBER, the move was expected to take a toll on Interior Alaska economies.

If the change occurred, 542 active duty positions, 308 students and 350 other family members would have been cut.

The Fairbanks community rallied along with Alaska politicians pushed back against the move, which eventually fell short.

Bill Popp, president of the Anchorage Economic Development Corporation, called the cuts will likely have a "modest economic impact" compared to what the loss of the Aggressor Squadron would have done to the Fairbanks economy.

Popp said the reductions amount to a 1.5 percent reduction of the overall military presence in Alaska: not ideal, but not devastating with the bulk of the losses in the state's largest city, he said.

"While we really don't want to see loss of active-duty," said Popp, "compared to other cities across the United States, it could have been much, much worse."

Sen. Mark Begich, D-Alaska, agreed that cuts are not ideal but the situation could have been much worse. 

"Some states got as many as 3,000 reductions," Begich told KTUU. "The amount of money that we have for construction of military bases just went from $18 million to $200 million, which is a good signal.

"There's a long-term commitment to our military in Alaska."

Channel 2's Corey Allen-Young contributed to this story.

Please watch Channel 2 Newscasts and check KTUU.com for updates to this developing story.