Joint Base Lewis-McChord is expected to lose 1,250 military soldiers over the next two years due to federal cutbacks — a significantly smaller figure than predicted. The state government and Pierce County leaders and businesses had been braced for a cut of 6,000 to 11,000 soldiers.
“Given the potential scale of reductions that could have taken place, we’re in an especially good position to manage these reductions,” said Gov. Jay Inslee in a press release. “Today’s news is as good as we could have hoped for.”
The state could still face further job losses, both at JBLM and other bases. Kristine Reeves, the governor’s lead on military and defense sector issues, noted that the federal government has not yet released its nationwide cuts in U.S. Navy and U.S. Air Force service members.
Several weeks ago, Inslee set up a task force to deal with the expected cuts at Joint Base Lewis-McCord. Its draft plan is due to be sent to the governor’s office by July 17. That task force is supposed to tackle the economic fallout and recovery from the cuts, social services needs that may arise, as well as workforce development and education issues.
Reeves said the state government remains deeply committed to dealing with the people affected by the cuts, although the scale appears to be less than feared.
The 1,250 number does not include the Western Regional Medical Command, which is being moved to Hawaii. And it does not include reductions in civilian JBLM staffing, a figure expected to be unveiled this fall.
Congressional sequestration budget-cuts have led to a potential trimming of the U.S. Army’s strength from 570,000 to 440,000 soldiers.
According to state figures distributed recently, JBLM is the biggest military post in Washington, with 42,000 military personnel, including about 5,400 airmen and about 15,000 civilians. There are also Navy bases in Kitsap County, where 2013 figures from the Kitsap Economic Development Alliance showed employment of more than 31,000 military and civilian personnel, and Snohomish County, plus Fairchild Air Force Base at Spokane. Military and defense-oriented spending generates about $13 billion a year for businesses across the state — about 3 percent of the state’s gross domestic production.