Fort Eustis spared deep Army cuts, losing 94 people

alrockett@dailypress.com
Fort Eustis spared deep Army cuts losing 94 people

Fort Eustis dodged a major blow Thursday when the Army announced it would cut fewer than 100 people from the Newport News post over the next two years in an effort to trim the Army's ranks by 40,000.

Only 94, a combination of active-duty service members and civilians, are on the chopping block, according Lt. Col. Richard Stebbins, an Army spokesman at Fort Eustis -- a relief after months of hearing Eustis could have lost 4,200 people. 

"While any cuts impact the Army's overall mission, here at Fort Eustis we are happy that it didn't cut us as deeply as it did other installations," Stebbins said.

The reduction here amounts to a loss of less than 1 percent, while other installations are having to cut more than 1,000 soldiers.

The Army will be inactivating the Engineering Diving Team and a Transportation Detachment; reducing some military and civilian positions within the Training and Doctrine Command, which is headquartered at Eustis, and on 93rd Signal Brigade; and converting some civilian jobs to military positions within TRADOC's Combined Field Operating Agency, according to Stebbins.

Other installations in the state were hit deeper than Eusits, according to Sen. Tim Kaine's office. Fort Belvoir is to lose about 250 soldiers, and another 127 soldiers are being cut at Fort Lee.

 Here are statements from Sens. Mark Warner and Tim Kaine, D-Va.: 

“While I welcome the news that the Army has reversed earlier plans that could have resulted in thousands of job cuts at Fort Eustis and Fort Lee, I am mindful that we must get serious about getting our budget house in order," Sen. Mark Warner said Thursday. "Today’s announcement should be a wake-up call to my colleagues on Capitol Hill about the need for us to find a responsible path forward that restores budgetary predictability and allows us to invest in bipartisan national priorities like security, veterans’ health and fixing our crumbling infrastructure. While some drawdown in our military force levels is to be expected as the U.S. winds down its combat role in Iraq and Afghanistan after many years, our military leaders should be able to make decisions based on strategic needs and not based on senseless and arbitrary budget caps.”

“Today the Army announced its plan to reduce its active duty ranks by 40,000 soldiers. The impact on Virginia is less significant than we feared, but I remain concerned that decisions like this have also been affected by years of crisis budgeting and other self-inflicted budgetary constraints placed on the Department of Defense – all prior to the emergence of ISIL, Russian aggression in Ukraine, rising tensions in the South China Sea and the Ebola crisis," Sen. Tim Kaine said. "It’s Congress’ obligation to provide appropriate and predictable budgetary support to our military, as well as the non-defense agencies that are critical to solving these complex national security challenges. While some reduction in end strength is to be expected given drawdowns in Afghanistan and Iraq, I am committed to working with my colleagues on the Senate Armed Services Committee and the Pentagon to ensure that our troop levels match the requirements dictated by events, and not by artificial budget reductions caused by sequestration or artificial budget caps put in place several years ago.” 

Earlier 10:50 p.m. Wednesday: Community and military leaders around Army installations across the country, including Fort Eustis, are collectively holding their breath as the service is expected to announce steep reductions in force this week.

But a Virginia congressional source said as of 10 p.m. Wednesday, none of the Virginia delegation had been briefed about any substantial cuts coming to bases in the commonwealth while delegations in other states had been notified ahead of the Army’s expected report Thursday. Only one Virginia congressional office responded to requests from the Daily Press Wednesday night. Officials from the Department of Defense and Fort Eustis have not commented.

That’s not to say Eustis and other post in the state are safe from any cuts. The Army plans to reduce its manpower by 40,000 soldiers and another 17,000 civilians, according to USA Today.

Earlier projections from the Army, cited in January, said as many as 4,200 people could leave the Newport News post including about 3,400 active duty soldiers and 750 civilians. That accounts for almost half of Eustis' 10,382 active duty and civilian workforce.

Earlier this year, the service held listening sessions in each community that could be affected by the cuts, including one at Fort Eustis in January.

An Army colonel who was charged with conducting the meetings at 30 installations across the U.S. said the loss of that many soldiers would take $312 million in sales from Hampton Roads.

At the meeting, political and business leaders touted Eustis' connection to the community and to other military bases in the region.

The potential cuts at Fort Eustis will only affect Army soldiers and civilians even though the base in now connected with Langley Air Force Base and is known collectively as Joint Base Langley-Eustis. The Air Force has its own cuts coming later this year with Langley slated to lose as many as 750 positions.

The Army's reductions are driven by cost-cutting measures and a goal to reduce its end-strength from a war-time high of 570,000 to 450,000 active duty soldiers by mid-2017. The cuts coming this week would account for the last 40,000 soldiers to reach that goal, and it includes dropping another 17,000 civilians from the payroll.

Cuts could go even deeper if sequestration, or automatic budget cuts, returns in 2016 reducing end-strength further to 420,000.

Check back to dailypress.com for updates on this story as it develops.

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