TOPEKA — The Army said Tuesday that it would eliminate one infantry brigade at Fort Riley as the military reduces its overall number of soldiers by September 2017.
Chief of Staff Gen. Raymond Odierno said the 4th Brigade Combat Team of the 1st Infantry Division will be inactivated. The brigade is one of 10 at Army installations nationwide being eliminated, in addition to two brigades in Europe.
The move is part of the Army’s plans to reduce its overall strength by 80,000 soldiers to 490,000. The cuts were already planned by the military before federal budget reductions were put in place in March.
Fort Riley is home to nearly 18,000 soldiers and three brigades of the 1st Infantry Division, as well as a combat aviation brigade. The elimination of the one brigade would partially be offset through the addition of other support battalions to the 1st and 2nd brigades remaining at Fort Riley.
Officials from the 1st Infantry Division were preparing to issue a statement Tuesday afternoon about the announcement.
John Armbrust, executive director of the Governor’s Military Council, said the cuts will leave Fort Riley with approximately 15,500 soldiers, still more than the 9,400 soldiers who were assigned to the post in 2001. He said 60 percent of the soldiers in the 4th Brigade would be reassigned to two remaining brigades. What isn’t known, he said, is what level of positions and rank those soldiers who are being eliminated represent.
“While it’s disappointing, Fort Riley is still a viable and important part of the Army in the future,” Armbrust said.
The council will be meeting with local community representatives and Fort Riley leaders to assess the impact on the community, including housing, schools and the economy. The reduction comes on the heels of the Pentagon’s decision to furlough civilian military employees starting in July through September to comply with federal budget cuts.
U.S. Sen. Pat Roberts said Kansas was fortunate in the reductions, which didn’t include any loss of soldiers at Fort Leavenworth, home of the Command and General Staff College and two military prisons.
“I have learned that other units at Ft. Riley will see plus-ups due to realignment, resulting in a smaller net loss than the average installation reviewed under this program,” the Kansas Republican said. “That speaks to the strong role Ft. Riley plays in defending our nation.”
The 4th Brigade was established at Fort Riley when the 1st Infantry Division returned to Kansas in 2006 after a decade in Germany. The return prompted the Pentagon to spend nearly $2 billion in new construction at Fort Riley to accommodate the influx of soldiers, including new barracks, training areas and hospital.
Republican Gov. Sam Brownback said the news was a reflection of federal budget realities affecting the military.
“I don’t like it. A lot of things have been going on in the positive at Fort Riley in the last decade,” he said. “We’re going to do everything we can to support the fort.”
The brigade was pressed in to service in 2007 when it was sent to the suburbs of Baghdad as the United States sought to squelch a growing insurgency during the Iraq war.
Odierno said there will also be a reduction of civilian employees but an exact number has not been determined. The general said the cuts were disbursed geographically, in part, to blunt the impact on military communities.
“We knew this was coming,” he said. “We’ve done our best to reach out to them. We tried to make it as small impact as possible.”