Armbrust: Response key in Fort reductions

By The Mercury

Cuts are once again looming over Fort Riley.

However, Governor’s Military Council executive director John Armbrust on Friday said action the community takes now could help determine the impact of the pending reductions.

The Army has opened a 60-day public comment period following the release of a report that studied the environmental and socioeconomic impacts of reductions at 30 installations, including Fort Riley.

The installations studied could lose 1,000 or more positions, including soldiers and civilian employees.

For the study’s purposes, the reduction at Fort Riley and several other installations was said to be as high as16,000 personnel.

“That number was designed to be a worst case, not a highly probable number,” Armbrust said.

Now that the comment period has opened, Armbrust is urging the community to participate.

“We need the community response, but we need it to be large, and we need it to be quality in nature,” he said.

With a high amount of community involvement, Armbrust said the number of personnel actually cut likely will be far lower than 16,000.

“They don’t expect those sizes of cuts at most of the installations,” Armbrust said, noting that a loss of 1,000 to 2,000 positions is a more realistic possibility.

The Army is accepting comments in several forms - emails, letters and even postcards.

“It can be postcard size,” Armbrust said, stressing that length doesn’t make a comment high-quality. “It can be bullet points. They’re not looking for prose.”

Suggested talking points have been posted on the Manhattan Chamber of Commerce’s and the city’s websites.

The points include how the region’s economy relies on Fort Riley, how community services such as education have benefitted both the region and the installation, and how the area’s communities have worked to encourage employment opportunities for military spouses and veterans.

Comments can be sent via email to .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).

Armbrust estimated that cuts of 1,000 to 2,000 would still affect the region and perhaps some businesses.

“We’d feel it,” he said. “It wouldn’t be devastating.”

But if the number of deployments also drops due to drawdowns overseas - which Armbrust said is also a possibility - then the number of troops located on the installation could mitigate the cuts to some degree.

The Army will hold a listening session later this year to gather additional public input before any final decisions are made.

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