FORT RILEY, Kan. — Army Chief of Staff Gen. Raymond Odierno said Friday that the military's recent investment in installations and the condition of training facilities will be factors as the Army reduces its forces.
Speaking to reporters at Fort Riley, Odierno said the Army has made no decisions about which units will be cut beyond two brigades in Europe. However, he said the reduction of 80,000 soldiers over six years gives the Army flexibility in how the cuts are managed.
Fort Riley is home to 18,000 soldiers. The northeast Kansas post has been adding buildings since the 1st Infantry Division headquarters returned from Germany. The Army has invested more than $2 billion in new barracks, training areas, hospital and other support buildings.
"This is a place, obviously, that we will continue to have a large contingent of Army forces for a very long time," Odierno said.
Odierno also met Friday with soldiers training for an upcoming Afghanistan deployment.
The Army is slated by 2017 to go from 570,000 to 490,000, which is still more than the pre-9/11 levels. The number of brigades is also likely shrink, going from the present 48 to as few as 32.
"We are continuing to conduct analysis of which brigades, and really it's more than brigades, it's other units at well," Odierno said. "In some way, every installation will be effected by this 80,000-person cut."
Odierno said the reductions could be achieved through attrition, though there may be specific types of units or programs, such as more heavily armored brigades, that are cut. Civilian employees and contract workers also will affected by the cuts, he said.
The Pentagon must find some $260 billion in savings over the next five years. Congress has ordered the Defense Department to find $487 billion in cuts over the next 10 years. That figure could increase if Congress can't find a way to avoid across-the-board reductions mandated by lawmakers last year.
Odierno said last week that the two brigades being removed from Europe will be eliminated rather than reassigned to U.S. bases. Both are based in Germany — the 172nd Infantry Brigade, in Grafenwoehr, and the 170th Infantry Brigade, in Baumholder. The Pentagon also has requested two rounds of base realignment and closure from Congress, one in 2013 and one in 2015, to help achieve the savings.
Odierno said that over time the change will benefit both the United States and its European partners. U.S. combat and support units will rotate through Europe periodically for training and joint exercises with European forces to meet the needs of the militaries on the continent.
Fort Riley has seen its soldier population grow by about 50 percent since 2001 as the Army added troops to fight two wars.
The surrounding communities have made significant investments in new roads, housing and schools to handle the increase in the number of soldiers and families. Reductions in the number of soldiers assigned to Fort Riley could affect future plans for growth and the cities' ability to finance the improvements.
John Armbrust, executive director of the Governor's Military Council, said there remains a lot of uncertainty about the reductions and how they will be felt in military communities such as Junction City and Manhattan.
He said announcement of the reductions has caused businesses and government officials to exercise more caution as they continue planning developments. Armbrust said officials know that what the Army gave Kansas by growing Fort Riley can easily be taken away. In the 1990s, the installation lost nearly half its soldiers when the 1st Infantry was transferred to Germany, dealing a severe blow to the local economy.
"I don't think they are stopping and waiting, but what they are doing is being more fiscally conservative and making sure they can handle whatever happens," Armbrust said.