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Defense downsizing to lead to cuts at Alaska bases

Posted: December 11, 2011 - 1:16am

FAIRBANKS — Up to 78 civilian jobs could be lost at Alaska Army bases as part of a national downsizing effort, the Defense Department announced this week.

Fort Wainwright could lose up to 62 civilian positions; Fort Greely also could lose six positions, and Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson could lose 10 positions, the Daily News-Miner (http://is.gd/bmJTVK ) reported in Saturday’s newspaper.

The Army indicated the announced potential cuts do not necessarily mean 78 people will be out of work. The Defense Department will offer the civilians some options.

“Our people are our most critical and important asset, and we will do everything we can to ensure they are taken care of,” Col. Ronald Johnson, Fort Wainwright Garrison Commander, said in a news release. “Our civilian work force is the continuity that keeps our military installations going.

The Army has about 2,200 civilian employees in Alaska.

Fort Wainwright spokeswoman Linda Douglass said it is certain the Fairbanks post and other Army installations in Alaska will lose civilian positions but the final number won’t be known for a while.

Army officials in July announced a plan to eliminate about 8,700 civilian employee positions nationwide by Sept. 30, 2012, to meet Defense Department budget goals. The cuts could affect as many as 70 Army facilities in 37 states.

Sens. Lisa Murkowski and Mark Begich and Rep. Don Young sent a joint letter Thursday to Army Secretary John McHugh and Army Chief of Staff Gen. Ray Odierno asking that affected employees be transferred to vacant positions, saying it would be “unacceptable” to simply lay off workers to achieve budget goals.

The letter also expressed displeasure at the timing of the announcement, which came while about 7,500 military personnel from Alaska’s two largest military installations are serving in Afghanistan.

The letter noted that many spouses of deployed personnel are employed at Fort Wainwright and at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson and that worrying about potential job losses creates “additional and unnecessary stress.”

Last month, the Air Force announced cuts to its civilian work force.

In Alaska, Eielson Air Force Base, southeast of Fairbanks, will lose 45 civilian positions during the next five years, although about one-quarter of those are vacant. Nineteen will be eliminated during the next year. About 50 people will be laid off at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson near Anchorage and 200 other positions at that base will not be filled.

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