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Local officials hopeful brigade cut impact will be minimal

June 25, 2013
Few community officials were surprised to learn Fort Riley was one of 10 bases selected by the Army to lose a brigade but they're hoping the local impact won't be too harsh.

Chief of Staff Gen. Raymond Odierno Tuesday announced the "Big Red One" will lose the Fourth Brigade Combat Team as the Army decreases its overall numbers by September 2017, according to a report from The Associated Press.

While a brigade totals about 3,500 to 5,000 soldiers, local officials have heard actual positions lost on Fort Riley will be anywhere from 1,000 to 1,700 soldiers.

Junction City Mayor Cecil Aska said a briefing he received from Fort Riley officials stated some brigade positions could be rearranged at the post.

"I think they're estimating only losing 1,700 slots over a four-year period," he said. "I don't think that will have a huge impact on us."

Fort Riley officials were unable to immediately confirm that information. Officials told The Daily Union a press release would be issued later Tuesday.

The Associated Press reported the cuts were part of the Army's move to reduce its overall numbers by 80,000 to 490,000. The cuts were planned before federal budget reductions were put in place in March.

Locally, the focus Tuesday was on how the cuts could affect the economy.

Fort Riley is a driving economic force in Junction City and Geary County. About 18,000 soldiers are stationed at the post. Soldiers' families add to the area's population and the post employs about 2,400 civilians.

Geary County Commission Chair Ben Bennett said the cuts will probably have some type of economic impact, but he believes it may not be severe.

"We're going have to take a look at what we do in the upcoming years," Bennett said.

The cuts won't take place immediately, though, which buys Junction City some time to adjust.

Junction City Chamber of Commerce CEO Tom Weigand said he hopes the city can use the four-year period to diversify economically.

"Four years is a long time in this world," he said. "This will be gradual. It'll give us time to grown our businesses, expand our economy."

However, Weigand said the cuts announced Tuesday still will be felt by many businesses.

"It could certainly have a negative effect on housing or retail," he said.

Still, as County Commissioner Larry Hicks noted, Tuesday's news could have been worse.

"I think it's going to be important for us to know that the bulk of men and women from Fort Riley are still going to be here," he said.

Hicks added Fort Riley is still looked at as a premiere training facility.

"I'm disappointed that we're losing a brigade, but I take greater solace knowing that the installation is not going anywhere," he said. "It's still going to have a great presence in the community."

The Daily Union's Chase Jordan contributed to this article.

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