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The Oklahoman: Fortunate future: Fort Sill will see some gains, fewer cuts than other installations

February 2, 2016
News Stories

The Oklahoman - Chris Casteel

Fort Sill, the U.S. Army artillery post in southwest Oklahoma, is expected to trim civilian jobs and some military positions but still have a net gain of more than 400 active-duty military personnel by the end of next year.

Top officials at the post said Tuesday they were developing restructuring plans but declined to address specifics about personnel changes.

However, Capitol Hill offices, citing Pentagon estimates, said Fort Sill would lose roughly 290 civilian jobs and 116 military positions in some areas but gain 834 active-duty military personnel for artillery missions.

The changes — which incorporate civilian and military cuts announced in 2015 — are expected to be carried out in the next two federal budget years.

The post has about 10,000 active-duty, National Guard and Reserve positions and 5,000 civilians. It got a huge boost from the 2005 base closing and realignment round when it gained the Air Defense Artillery school and an ADA unit from a Texas post.

In a news release, Fort Sill officials said the post hospital might become a health clinic this year, handling outpatient visits only and requiring more appointments at private physicians.

Col. Kenneth Lemons, commander of the hospital, said, "We'll be laser-focused on our primary care and outpatient services.

Patients will still have the normal primary care services, specialty outpatient services and prescriptions.”

And the Army command that includes Fort Sill recently told the post to cut one of its three brigade headquarters.

Post leaders have proposed splitting oversight of the fort's basic training brigade between the two remaining brigade headquarters.

The change will not affect the number of incoming trainees.

The Army and Fort Sill still are analyzing various options, according to the post news release.

“If our analysis results in a decision to modify or eliminate positions at Fort Sill, we will try to mitigate the loss,” said Col. Glenn Waters, Fort Sill Garrison commander. “We will work to place employees into other positions across post, and we expect authorizations will be opened as current employees retire or leave their positions.”

Officials said they previously have been able to find other jobs for civilian personnel to keep from laying off workers.

Oklahoma lawmakers praised post leaders for planning ahead.

Sen. Jim Inhofe, R-Tulsa, a senior member of the Armed Services Committee, said training at Fort Sill is critical to the Army's readiness to fight wars.

“The importance of Fort Sill's mission, coupled with unparalleled community and state support, has resulted in continued growth,” he said.

Rep. Tom Cole, R-Moore, whose district includes Fort Sill, said, “Due to budget demands placed on the Department of Defense, the Army has made necessary adjustments to both civilian and military billets at posts across the United States.

“While Fort Sill has been fortunate that the changes are minor, in comparison with other installations, adapting to any change is difficult. I am confident that Fort Sill will continue to find the best solutions despite budget challenges, and I will work to ensure it has the resources needed to complete its mission.”

Sen. James Lankford, R-Oklahoma City, said, “I'm thankful that the reductions at Fort Sill are less than at other bases, but even more thankful for the Fort Sill leadership that will ensure these reductions do not impact the readiness of our soldiers.”

Online: The Oklahoman