Army troop reductions announced by the Pentagon on Thursday hit bases in Missouri and Kansas, but less than once projected.
Politicians from both states were quick to claim their lobbying minimized what otherwise might have been more severe cuts. But Army officials said the choice of where to cut turned on military needs, not political pressure.
Kansas faces losing fewer than 700 soldiers. State officials said Thursday that the modest reductions show Fort Riley and Fort Leavenworth — which will lose 615 and 80 soldiers, respectively — remain vital to the military.
The reductions amount to 3.8 percent of the nearly 18,000 soldiers at the two posts.
Nationally, the Army plans to cut its active-duty forces by about 8.2 percent, or 40,000 troops, to 450,000 over the next two years.
The civilian workforce will be reduced nationally by as many as 17,000 over the same period, but the details aren’t expected to be announced until September.
Fort Leonard Wood in south-central Missouri will lose about 15 percent of its active-duty troops. A base spokeswoman said leaders do not yet have a breakdown of where the reductions will occur.
The Army’s initial Supplemental Programmatic Environmental Assessment suggested the fort could lose up to 5,400 civilian and military positions by 2020, a prospect that drew more than 2,000 people to a listening session in early March to urge the Army to reconsider such drastic reductions.
“While budgetary constraints have forced the Army to make difficult decisions, today’s announcement confirms what Missourians already know: Fort Leonard Wood will continue to play a critical role in the training and development of our troops,” according to a joint statement from U.S. Sens. Claire McCaskill, a Democrat, and Republican Roy Blunt, and Republican U.S. Rep. Vicky Hartzler.
Members of Kansas’ congressional delegation and Gov. Sam Brownback said that state was largely spared. U.S. Sen. Jerry Moran, a member of the Senate Appropriations defense subcommittee, said state officials feared Fort Riley would lose a brigade, or 4,000 soldiers, and perhaps thousands more civilian employees.
“I never thought we would be spared completely,” the senator said in an Associated Press interview. “If the Army is going to reduce their forces by 40,000 military men and women, it’s probably unrealistic — it’s unrealistic — to expect there to be nothing at Fort Riley and Fort Leavenworth.”
The troop reductions were 5 percent or less at a majority of the 30 posts facing cuts, but Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson in Alaska will lose 59 percent of its soldiers. Fort Benning, in Georgia, will lose 29 percent.