Military News

Inslee directs state agencies to get ready for military downsizing

Bracing for more cuts to military facilities in Washington, Gov. Jay Inslee announced Thursday that he’s directing 11 state agencies to begin making plans for how they’ll respond to potential force reductions that could hurt communities from Lakewood to Spokane.

Inslee’s subcabinet on military downsizing is expected to have its first meeting June 17. It brings together government agencies responsible for education, workforce development, labor issues and finances.

The group will look at ways to help people find new employment, and try to prepare local governments and school districts for significant cuts to major employers in their communities.

Joint Base Lewis-McChord has shed about 7,000 active-duty Army positions from its peak strength in 2011 because of rapid military downsizing since the end of the Iraq War. Army officials are considering a plan for further force reductions that could take another 11,000 Army positions from JBLM.

Inslee, in a news release, said he was primarily concerned with assisting troops whose military careers may end earlier than they had planned.

“Our first priority, should a significant reduction take place, is ensuring impacted service members and civilians receive the education, training and employer connections necessary to find work quickly as they transition out of life at JBLM,” he said.

Today, about 27,000 active-duty soldiers serve at the base. It is Pierce County’s largest employer with more than 40,000 active and Reserve military personnel, and thousands more civilian employees.

Inslee previously has convened a committee that was intended to help troops leaving the military find civilian careers, and another group that brought together local governments and private organizations with shared interests in protecting communities from deep defense cuts.

Last fall and winter, the Army had community events outside of its large domestic installations where officials asked residents to describe how military downsizing might affect their economies. About 500 attended a January event in Lakewood to share concerns about JBLM.

The worst-case cuts for JBLM outlined in Army planning documents would leave the base with about as many active-duty soldiers as it had before the Iraq War. Army leaders say the cuts would take place by 2020 unless Congress repeals the forced federal spending reductions known as sequestration.