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Installations and communities bracing for pending troop cuts and a major reshuffling of the Army's brigade combat teams should not expect to lose more than 8,000 military and civilian personnel, according to a recent report.
The report, which assessed the environmental impact of adding or cutting troops from various Army posts, looked at 21 installations that would likely experience population changes and studied scenarios ranging from cutting 8,000 military personnel to adding 3,000.
"It would be unlikely that any one installation would be selected to sustain a force reduction of more than 8,000 military employees," the assessment states. "It is important to understand that these scenarios represent the maximum potential reduction at these installations and are not currently being proposed by the Army."
Officials cautioned that the numbers are not tied to specific people or units, and a lot depends on what the Army decides to do with its primary fighting formations.
They stressed that no decisions have been made regarding which BCTs will be cut or if the BCTs will be reorganized, and the environmental assessment was conducted as part of that process.
The Army is set to shrink the active-duty force from 562,000 to 490,000 by fiscal 2020. It will cut eight brigade combat teams and could eliminate as many as five more if Army leaders decide to increase the size of its remaining infantry, armored and airborne BCTs by adding a third maneuver battalion to each one.
"The purpose of this environmental assessment is to ensure the decision-makers consider the environmental and socioeconomic impacts before they make a decision," said Army spokeswoman Lt. Col. Peggy Kageleiry. "There are many other factors that weigh into that decision, like strategic relevance, operational advantage, geographic distribution, cost [and] other statutory requirements. Just because the team analyzed all the installations does not mean every one of them will receive cuts."
In putting together the environmental assessment, which found there would be no significant impact regardless of whether an installation loses or gains troops, Army staff tried to determine the maximum reductions possible at any one installation, said Cathy Kropp, a spokeswoman for Army Environmental Command.
"They were looking at worst-case scenarios," Kropp wrote in an email. "The max reductions are quite significant, and if the Army reduced the max amount at each installation, the total reduction would be approximately 126,000 soldiers and Army civilians. This far exceeds what is required to reach an end strength of 490,000."
For example, installations with multiple BCTs were assumed to lose one BCT, 30 percent of their non-BCT soldiers and 15 percent of their civilian workforce.
The sites considered in the assessment included Fort Benning, Ga.; Fort Bliss, Texas; Fort Bragg, N.C.; Fort Campbell, Ky.; Fort Carson, Colo.; Fort Drum, N.Y.; Fort Hood, Texas; Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash.; Fort Leonard Wood, Mo.; Fort Sill, Okla.; and Fort Stewart, Ga.
And while the report provided some insight into various scenarios relating to troop populations, the study primarily was focused on the impact of potential personnel cuts or growth on air quality, airspace, cultural and biological resources, noise, soil erosion, wetlands, water resources, facilities, socioeconomics, land use, hazardous materials and waste, traffic, energy demand and transportation.
So far, the Army has announced the inactivation of two BCTs — the 170th and 172nd BCTs from Germany.
No other decisions have been made, Kageleiry said.
"The Army has not decided whether or not it will reorganize its BCTs, nor has it decided which BCTs will be eliminated," she said. "Force structure decisions will be made over the course of the next several years. Adjustments will have to be made in response to evolving missions and changing world events."
The Army's overall size also is connected to the eventual budgets that will be approved for fiscal 2013 to 2020, she said.
"Decisions on force structure cannot be finalized until future budgets are determined and released," she said.