WASHINGTON - The Army this week announced specific bases around the country that will be part of the next round of reductions in the force, with 40,000 troops to be cut by 2017, a U.S. defense official said.
The reductions, which will also include 17,000 civilian employees to be cut from the payroll, are part of a longstanding plan that has been publicly discussed since last year. Leaders we spoke with say it's typical that these cuts happen after major conflicts come to a close.
Thursday, Brigadier General Edward Daly, Army Materiel Command Deputy Chief of Staff, said the cuts would have "minimal impacts" on Redstone Arsenal and Army Material Command.
He said Redstone already has a low troop presence of only 1000 Army troops, indicating other installations with higher troop count are affected much more drastically.
Redstone still relies on a strong force of Department of the Army civilian workers, though. But Daly says there's "almost no concern, at this point" for those jobs.
"I really feel confident we have provided the right information to the headquarters of the Department of the Army and have taken the right internal steps to really do this in a manner that is not only prudent, but takes care of our workforce and preserves our capability within the command," he said. "We won't be giving out pink slips to individuals and saying, hey, you need to turn around and go home."
He said any civilian jobs cut at Redstone Arsenal would be absorbed by "prudent" planning the AMC and Redstone Arsenal have been working on in anticipation of this announcement. He mentioned attrition, early retirement, and eliminating already empty job positions as ways the commands would be able to soften any of the "minimal" blows. But, it's still unclear specifically how or which civilian jobs will be impacted across the nation.
Congress has been regularly briefed on the plan, but there has been discussion inside the Pentagon leadership that the cuts could grow even deeper if there are additional mandatory budget reductions from Congress.
Congressional notification of specific cuts at individual bases was expected to start Thursday.
Congressman Robert Aderholt released this statement to WHNT News 19 on Wednesday:
"I am aware of the news reports concerning the Army's plan to reduce the number of soldiers and civilian employees. Further details on this plan are expected to be given to members of Congress Thursday morning and released to the public later in the day. I expect the military personnel impact on Redstone to be minimal. We may not have a clear picture of the impact on civilian employees at Redstone until a later date.
I will of course be actively seeking details on this plan to gauge the impact, if any, on Army bases in Alabama, in particular Redstone Arsenal in Huntsville. As a member of the House Appropriations Committee I have always supported the vital mission Redstone and the greater North Alabama area plays in our national defense and in supporting the war fighter. I am confident that important role will remain for decades to come."
Local officials echo that statement.
Joe Fitzgerald, Civilian Aide to the Secretary of the Army representing North Alabama, tells WHNT News 19 that although it was unclear that will happen as of when we spoke with him Wednesday, "I think we will be okay."
He explained that Redstone Arsenal's makeup and the north Alabama region as a whole is diversified enough to be "well positioned to absorb those types of impacts. Much more so than any other Army community in this country."
He went on to say, "We have a large... research, development, testing, and evaluation community. And that work will continue and continue to grow. It has to exist in order for us to have an Army. That will stay robust."
Confronted by budget constraints, the Obama administration has looked to cut the size of the military, pledging to scale the Army back to its lowest troop level since before World War II. The Army announced in 2013 that it planned to cut about 80,000 troops.
At one point, right after the 9/11 attacks, the Army had 570,000 troops.
Nixing an Army base is frequently controversial as community leaders and politicians look to defend their local bases and the jobs they support. At the Fort Polk army base in Louisiana, for instance, a community leader told The Associated Press that he's confident their base will survive in the short-term -- though there is little that can be done as they wait.
"We'll just have to wait and see what the announcement is," said Michael Reese, chairman of Fort Polk Progress. "We have pretty good confidence we'll come out of this next round okay."