Joint Base Lewis-McChord’s new top general foresees a couple of steady years for the military in the South Sound before another round of downsizing could take a toll.
“Right now, we’ve been given great resources. The question becomes, where do we go in 2016 and ’17,” I Corps Commander Lt. Gen. Stephen Lanza said Wednesday in his first remarks to reporters since he was promoted last month.
He’s concerned that Congress will allow the forced federal spending cuts known as sequestration to go forward. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel has said those cuts would cause the Pentagon to reduce the active-duty Army from today’s 522,000 soldiers to a force of 420,000.
Lewis-McChord has 32,400 active-duty soldiers. It is losing several thousand positions for soldiers to a round of troop cuts announced last year.
The Army Environmental Command recently began looking at how cutting the force to 420,000 soldiers would play out across the military. It expects to release the study this summer and likely will say Lewis-McChord could lose up to 8,000 soldiers. The public will have a chance to comment on the report.
“Where do the cuts come from? I don’t know,” Lanza said.
The downsizing that followed a previous environmental study on force cuts resulted in the Army inactivating one of Lewis-McChord’s three Stryker brigades.* Each brigade has 4,500 soldiers and a budget of about $231 million a year.
Cathy Kropp, spokeswoman for the environmental command, said the updated report is intended to be broad so the Army would have options and “has flexibility to take from whatever installations that it needs.”
Lanza’s new assignment has him building on revived partnerships with American allies along the Pacific Rim now that the war in Afghanistan is ending. He came to the corps from Lewis-McChord’s 7th Infantry Division, where he oversaw the base’s main combat brigades.
I Corps last year participated in three Pacific exercises in which it operated as a land headquarters under the Navy’s Pacific Command.
More exercises are scheduled for the next year. They’re expected to involve more ground-level soldiers instead of just the senior-ranking troops in the I Corps headquarters.
The idea is that the corps will be able to send troops from Alaska, Hawaii and Washington to support Pacific Command in military-to-military exercises, humanitarian assistance missions and conflicts.
“We provide capabilities, we help build partner capacity. That builds trust with our allies,” Lanza said.
* The Army last year released an environmental study that projected a force cut of up to 8,000 soldiers from Joint Base Lewis-McChord. The study to be released this summer builds on that report by looking at a cut of an additional 8,000 soldiers.
Adam Ashton: 253-597-8646