Congressman: JBLM’s loss is economy’s gain

Jul 9, 2015, 12:16 PM | Updated: 3:46 pm
Joint Base Lewis McChord. (AP)

Good news for the Puget Sound’s business community. There’s about to be flood of skilled personnel entering the local workforce.

That’s the perspective of Congressman Denny Heck, whose 10th District includes Joint Base Lewis-McChord where approximately 1,250 active duty positions are expected to be eliminated as the Army scales down its forces nationwide.

“It is an absolute treasure trove of an opportunity for people in small and large business in south Puget Sound and in the nonprofit sector as well. These people are an incredible asset to us and make incredible employees for obvious reasons,” Heck said.

While many military bases across the United States are facing reductions, JBLM isn’t experiencing it as bad as elsewhere.

“Everybody is going to take a haircut,” Heck said. “I predict &#8212 with quite a bit of confidence &#8212 that Joint Base Lewis-McChord is going to take much less of a haircut than anybody imagined.”

The reduction in numbers should not be viewed in the short-term, Heck said. Rather, it should be taken into account with the United State’s “re-balance to Asia,” or “pivot to Asia.”

The pivot is a change in military focus from the Middle East and Europe to Asian countries primarily in the eastern and southern regions. It’s part of a plan from the Obama administration to strengthen alliances, expand trade, create a larger military presence, and promote democracy and human rights.

“What it implies is a full-on recognition by the Army of the strategic role that Joint Base Lewis-McChord will play in the so-called ‘rebalance to Asia,’ or ‘pivot to Asia,'” Heck said.

The reason, according to Heck, is because while the Washington military base will be reducing troops, it will still be larger than it was at the onset of the country’s Middle East campaigns following 2001.

“In 2001, as I recall, overall Army troop level was at 460,000. We are now at 490,000. And the Army is going to phase down to 450,000 over the next two years,” Heck said.

“The army is actually going to be smaller than it was in 2001,” he said. “Yet, Joint Base Lewis-McChord will be nearly 9,000 troops larger than it was in 2001 … I think what it signifies is that the Department of Defense and the Army is recognizing the critical role Joint Base Lewis-McChord plays in the rebalance to Asia.”

Heck also touts the news that the base’s Stryker brigades will stay at JBLM.

“Yes, there is going to be some dislocation and it’s inevitable in the wake and aftermath of the wind down of wars in Iraq and Afghanistan,” Heck said. “The most important part is that our Stryker brigades will remain intact. That was the most important thing that could happen. There will be no dissolving or deactivating of either of those two Stryker brigades, which are far and away the largest units at Joint Base Lewis-McChord.”

Three other units will also be activated at JBLM during the restructuring.

The Congressman also noted that the move of the Western Regional Medical Command from JBLM to Hawaii is completely separate from the troop reductions.

Jason Rantz on AM 770 KTTH
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Congressman: JBLM’s loss is economy’s gain