Community fears ripple effect from proposed cut of 2,500 jobs at Ft. Leavenworth

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LEAVENWORTH, Kan. -- Twenty-five hundred jobs are on the chopping block at Fort Leavenworth, a possible reduction of 1,750 military positions and 750 civilian ones.

The potential cutbacks are part of a congressional budget plan to reduce the size of Army personnel by 40,000 by 2020.

Nearly 300 people showed up Thursday night for a town hall meeting in Leavenworth, where Army leaders from Washington, D.C., listened to two hours of presentations and heard dozens of concerns from the community.

“It made me sick to my stomach,” said Debra Hutton, who works at nearby Lansing High School. “It's pretty horrific for this area.”

Military spouse Tammie Ferguson agreed.

“I think a reduction in the force here at Fort Leavenworth is detrimental to the community,” she said.

Brigadier General Roger Cloutier, director of Army Force Management with the Office of the Deputy Chief of Staff, said he sympathized with the community, but “Sequestration is the law of the land and unless something changes, we have to execute this plan.”

He sat front and center listening as community leaders and residents explained how the cutbacks could reach far beyond their town.

“I see the ripple effect that it could have,” Ferguson said, “impacting the schools, the restaurants, the shopping, the stores, just all of the businesses. It could be a huge impact.”

A representative from the Mid-America Regional Council even told the crowd he believed the impact was understated, as the ripple effect could actually mean the total loss of about 7,500 jobs throughout the Kansas City region.

“It's going to be very, very bad for this area if it happens,” Hutton said.

Brig. Gen. Cloutier, who has lived in Leavenworth before, said he can relate to their concerns.

“I feel the angst from the community,” he said. “I feel that partnership and I understand and that’s the message that I’ve got to carry back to Washington.”

Brig. Gen. Cloutier said no decisions have been made and the cuts could be less than 2,500 at Leavenworth, but they must assess against the worst case scenario.

He still has 26 more Army installations to visit for similar community forums. The information he gathers from each one will be given to the Chief of Staff and Secretary of the Army to make final decisions by late Spring 2015.