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Joint Base Lewis-McChord to cut about 900 civilian jobs

Associated Press

JOINT BASE LEWIS-MCCHORD, Wash. – Joint Base Lewis-McChord is expected to cut about 900 civilian jobs over the next few years, with most of the reductions accomplished by not filling openings and offering incentives for early retirement.

The Army in July announced it planned to cut 17,000 civilian jobs across the service over the next few years. The Army has not said where those cuts would happen.

The Washington base currently employs more than 16,000 civilian workers, doing jobs from retail clerks to day care providers, the News-Tribune reported.

Greta Powell, chief of the base’s resource management office, said the senior leaders at the Washington military base have been meeting to discuss how they’ll manage the installation with fewer workers.

These reductions, along with more staffing cuts expected through 2022, “will fundamentally change how we operate on base,” Powell said.

“It’s bleak,” she added.

In some offices, JBLM already has fewer employees than the Army would allow it to hire, which means the base is ahead of schedule for some job cuts, Army spokesman Lt. Col. Joe Buccino said.

For example, the JBLM office that oversees the city-like functions of the base has more than 100 vacancies, Powell said.

The Army also is cutting about 120,000 active-duty soldiers from its peak strength in 2011.

Some of the jobs once held by civilians will be taken over by troops back on base. Others that focused on supporting families of deployed troops are no longer needed.

“This isn’t a crisis or a catastrophe,” said Tom Knight, the base’s chief of staff. “This is an opportunity to reassess ourselves to change the way we’re doing business here for a lot of the right reasons. We have much more of a home-station military right now.”

It’s hard to predict the economic impact of the staffing reductions on communities around the base.

Cheryl Fambles, chief executive of the Pacific Mountain Workforce Development Council, said local governments will want to know how many people are being laid off and where they live.

That kind of information helped Fambles’ agency win grants from a program called Camo 2 Commerce, which helped hundreds of active-duty military service members find new careers as civilians since the Army began its drawdown in 2012.

The database that broadly describes how many civilians work at JBLM indicates that more people are employed there today than in 2012. That might be because it includes estimates for contract employees, whose numbers fluctuate dramatically from year to year, base spokesman Joe Piek said.

The expected reductions follow several years of steady cuts to the ranks of troops stationed at JBLM, from a high of 34,000 active-duty soldiers in 2012 to about 27,000 today. Counting members of the Air Force and the reserves, about 40,750 military service members serve at the base.

Local and state government officials have been preparing for deep civilian cuts at the base for months.

Gov. Jay Inslee in July pulled together leaders from several state agencies and asked them to make a plan that would help troops or laid-off Defense Department civilian workers find new careers.

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