Rep. Tim Huelskamp made several stops in the Manhattan area on Thursday to gather information on Fort Riley’s missions ahead of a possible decision on troop reductions.
An Army report released in June indicated that Fort Riley could face cuts of up to 16,000 employees following a reduction in defense spending. Though fort officials have said such drastic cuts are unlikely, the report has been a cause for concern about the potential economic blow to the area. The Army is taking public comments on the issue until Monday.
“We’re getting more and more people, locally, talking about how important Fort Riley is, and that helps,” Huelskamp said Thursday, when he visited Fort Riley, the VA Community Based Outreach Clinic in Junction City, the Manhattan Veterans Center and the Flint Hills Chapter of the Military Officers Association of America, also in Manhattan.
In a closed-door meeting at the veterans center, the Republican representative of the 1st District, which includes Riley County, spoke with officials there.
“The reason I went to Fort Riley again — and I’ve been there numerous times— has been to identify many of the unique missions that are critical to the future of our nation,” he said following the meeting.
He said reductions would have a huge impact on the economy in the area.
“Anytime you talk troop reductions there is a local economic impact, but that happens all over the place, and we can’t make light of that.”
Huelskamp said Fort Riley has many attributes that make it important.
“Number one is community support,” he said. “I hear from soldiers from all over the country that the best place they like to serve — including commanding generals — is Fort Riley. So that’s very unique and very helpful. We also have unique missions. Serving security functions in Africa is a key mission of Fort Riley.
“In this process in reductions of forces, it’s my job and the rest of the delegation to highlight what is Fort Riley doing that is critical to the 21st century military.”
Huelskamp said email campaigns to the military are a good tool to show support for Fort Riley, and although he admitted the ending of two wars along with reduced military spending overall make troop reductions hard to avoid, he’s confident Fort Riley will weather the changes.
“The process is just under way, so public comment is very helpful,” he said. “We did well the last time this happened — about 10 years ago or longer — but you can never take it for granted. But I think we’re going to be successful.”