Fort Riley Military budget cut could result in thousands of soldiers and employees leaving Fort Riley and Fort Leavenworth, affecting local economies in addition to downsizing the military, according to a new report from the U.S. Army.
Fort Riley spokesman Col. Sean Ryan told the Topeka Capital-Journal that the draft report released Thursday is a worst-case scenario. He said the reductions aren’t likely to be as severe as predicted.
The Army plans to decrease the number of soldiers in its units to as few as 420,000 over the next six years, compared to the high 562,000 soldiers during the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.
According to the report, Fort Riley could lose 16,000 soldiers and civilian employees, while another 3,600 jobs could be lost in the surrounding region that are dependent on the post. The fort currently has about 20,000 soldiers and civilian employees, and is the headquarters of the 1st Infantry Division.
The report estimated that the reductions to cause a potential loss of $865 million in military income and $800 million in other economic activities, including sales tax collections.
“I don’t see the numbers ever going that low. We’re called upon too often,” Ryan said.
The 1st Infantry Division currently has one brigade that has deployed to Kuwait and 500 soldiers who are in Africa, he said, adding that recent violence in Iraq also raised questions.
The Army study estimates that Fort Leavenworth could lose 2,500 of its 5,004 employees, under worse-case scenarios. Fort Leavenworth houses the U.S. Disciplinary Barracks — the military’s only maximum-security prison — as well as the Army’s Command and General Staff College, and numerous training and research centers.
Ryan said Fort Riley would see a loss of about 3,500 soldiers on paper, but only a third of that number would be through downsizing. A third of the soldiers would be reassigned to other units, and another third would be discharged as their service time expires.
“The whole goal overall is to slowly reduce by attrition,” Ryan said.
The effects of the cuts could be felt throughout the Fort Riley region, said Riley County Commissioner Robert Boyd.
“We are trying to help the Army understand that Fort Riley is a vital piece in our national defense,” Boyd said.
State officials encouraged residents and communities to submit their concerns to the Army about the draft report during a public comment period. John Armbrust, executive director of the Governor’s Military Council, said the process was just getting started.
The study also looked at the potential environmental consequences of the downsizing, including impacts on land use, energy demands, noise and traffic congestion at Army installations nationwide.