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Originally published Thursday, April 18, 2013 at 9:01 PM

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Lewis-McChord may cut up to 8,000 soldiers

Under an Army downsizing plan, staffing at Joint Base Lewis-McChord could be reduced by up to 8,000 soldiers.

Seattle Times staff reporter

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Under an Army downsizing plan, Joint Base Lewis-McChord (JBLM) may lose up to 8,000 soldiers, as well as civilians who support those troops, during the next four years, according to Lt. Gen. Robert Brown, commander of the base’s I Corps.

In a meeting Thursday with leaders of nearby communities, Brown said no final decisions on the cuts are expected to be made until sometime in the summer

It’s still possible that Lewis-McChord could be spared any cuts.

“There are several courses of action,” Brown said. “Nothing has been decided.”

The budget reductions come after a period of a major expansion at this joint Army and Air Force installation.

During the post-9/11 period, Joint Base Lewis-McChord added 19,528 Army soldiers, to reach the current level of more than 47,900 active-duty personnel. The base also employs more than 15,800 civilians.

Base officials say that base spending generates some $6 billion a year. Some 70 percent of military personnel live off-base.

Brown said the upcoming downsizing is separate from more immediate Army cuts this year in training and other activities required to meet budget reductions taking place under the congressional agreement known as sequestration.

Under the Army’s long-term plan, active-duty personnel will be cut from the current strength of about 540,000 soldiers to 490,000 by 2017.

Brown said that, for the first time in his 32-year career, some soldiers who want to re-enlist will not be granted that opportunity.

As the United States reduces its troop strength in Afghanistan, Brown said, the era of large-scale brigade deployments to war zones has ended. Instead, the base is refocusing on the Pacific, with training missions scheduled in Asian nations.

The Army is placing new emphasis on the Pacific, which could help moderate cuts at Lewis-McChord.

“The good news is that we are the Army’s main effort in the Pacific — us and Hawaii,” Brown said.

Hal Bernton: 206-464-2581 or hbernton@seattletimes.com

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