MANHATTAN, Kan. (WIBW) -- When it comes to the fiscal environment the Department of Defense is facing, the answers aren’t all there yet but decisions in Washington will have a trickle down effect here in Kansas.
That’s what John Armbrust, Executive Director of the Governor’s Military Council, told community members during a briefing Wednesday at the Manhattan Area Chamber of Commerce.
"All of this is very cloudy and when you want the truth and you want numbers, I’ll tell you that in some instances, they just aren’t there and in others they are… Right now, it’s a really tough environment. It’s very cloudy and there’s really a potential for a storm," Armbrust told the crowd, comprised of members of the business community.
He discussed Department of Defense budget reductions, the possible impacts of sequestration on the Department of Defense budget and the resulting potential local impacts.
"I want to let them know that things that are happening at the national level actually have a significant impact right here are the local level. So what I hope to do here today….is identify what those impacts are and have people think about how it may affect their business or their organization," Armbrust told WIBW.
Officials are still trying to gauge the true impact sequestration could have because it will only add to the $500 billion in budget cuts the Department of Defense faces. Cuts to Fort Riley’s operations, construction, training and logistics will impact local jobs and money being spent in the area.
Due to sequestration, 2,700 civilian employees at Fort Riley could be forced to take furlough days.
"There’s some news just out yesterday that the Secretary of Defense said that civilians would be furloughed 11 days starting on July 8th and that could be fewer than 11 days if there are changes in the budget environment but right now it looks like 11 days. Originally, it was 22 days and then it went down to 14 days and now we’re down to 11," Armbrust explained.
Armbrust also touched on the "distinct possibility" of another Base Realignment and Closure and on the Army’s downsizing from 570,000 to 490,000 troops. Six brigade combat teams will be inactivated and Fort Riley is one of 21 installations being looked at for the cuts. Two brigades from Europe are being cut.
As far as BRAC, Armbrust does not see Fort Riley being closed but will be looking at size changes.
"We’re an area that supports and loves our military and that’s why we do what we do… We think that someplace around 500, 750, 1000 that as a partnership, we could remain strong. Certainly, it has some negative impacts. It will cause us to be stronger together. But we know if we get above those numbers, it starts to be very, very difficult," Armbrust said during a massive meeting on Fort Riley last month with Army officials and community members.
Junction City and Manhattan have stressed the massive investments the region has made at all levels to support Fort Riley. Millions have been spent on housing, infrastructure, education and healthcare.
Officials stress that losing soldiers would take a big toll on the entire area and the local economy.
Armbrust says the Army should reveal their decision about where the brigades will be cut sometime in late May-mid July.