The Army published a Finding of No Significant Impact following completion of the Programmatic Environmental Assessment for Army 2020 Force Structure Realignment. The PEA analyzed the environmental impacts of two action alternatives for reducing and reorganizing the Army’s active component force structure between now and 2020. This action is necessary to achieve the fiscal reductions directed by the Budget Control Act of 2011, consistent with the National Military Strategy and ending of wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
This PEA analyzed two alternatives. Alternative 1 was to inactivate at least eight brigade combat teams and realign combat support and service support units between now and September 2020. This scenario causes a reduction of forces at a number of locations sufficient to reach the directed Army active component end strength of 490,000 by 2017.
Alternative 2 was to inactivate additional BCTs, realign combat support and service support units, and restructure some of the remaining BCTs, adding a third combat maneuver battalion. This scenario could result in a gain of forces at some installations, but would still result in an end strength of 490,000.
Twenty-one installations were studied in the PEA. The results of the environmental analysis revealed no significant impacts to the environment for either alternative. The Army’s findings, validated by public comments, show that significant socioeconomic impacts would be experienced at almost every installation analyzed in this PEA. These socioeconomic impacts, by themselves, do not require an environmental impact statement. Further study may be required for the Alternative 2 growth scenarios at Fort Carson, Colo., and Schofield Barracks, Hawaii.
Lt. Gen. James Huggins, Jr., the Army’s chief of operations, has signed the FNSI, which is available for review at http://aec.army.mil/usaec/nepa/topics00.html. Section 6 of the FNSI includes summaries of the comments received during the public review period. An annex to the FNSI includes comments that were specific to individual locations.
Unlike an environmental impact statement, for which the process is not complete until a record of decision is published, the environmental assessment process is over when the FNSI is finished.
No decision has been made regarding which alternative will be implemented, or what force structure changes will result. The information in the PEA will be used to support decisions regarding how the force is to be reshaped through 2020.
Those decisions will be made starting with an analysis of mission-related criteria, each of which is affected by various factors. Mission-related criteria that the Army will consider include, but are not limited to, training capability, power projection, Soldier and Family well-being, mission expansion, capacity, and geographic distribution, in addition to cost, command and control, unit alignment, feasibility, and national strategic priorities.
The Army received more than 8,000 comments in response to its request for review and input during the review period, which closed on March 21. The vast majority of comments focused on the results of the socioeconomic analysis, and emphasized the substantial adverse socioeconomic impacts resulting from force reductions. The PEA already had concluded that these impacts would be ‘significant.’
The public feedback on environmental, as well as socioeconomic impacts is valuable and will be considered during the Army’s force structure and stationing decision processes.
The potential impact from these reductions would not be limited to the PEA’s 21 installations directly related to the potential BCT, combat support, and combat service support unit inactivations that were analyzed. The reshaping of the force could potentially affect all Army installations.
There was considerable media interest in the number of comments received. Communities were very resourceful, using the latest technology to make it easy for commenters to submit their views to the Army. The communities surrounding Fort Polk used an online petition, communities around Fort Leonard Wood used an automated website, and other communities, such as those surrounding Forts Benning and Carson, distributed form letters, which were sent to the Army by email and through the U.S. Postal Service and express services.
There was also Congressional interest in the proposed action and letters were received by the Army from Congressional members from almost every state with installations studied in the PEA.
The vast majority of comments opposed force reductions. Many commenters expressed support for gains at their respective communities’ installations.
Thousands of commenters expressed concern about state, local, and private investments in communities surrounding Army installations now being considered for force reductions (for example, roads, schools, and businesses). Thousands of commenters also expressed concern about substantial DoD funds invested in facilities and infrastructure on those installations.
Some commenters suggested that overseas forces be cut first. The Army already has reduced forces substantially in both Europe and Korea and has plans to continue overseas reductions. This PEA allows the process of selecting U.S. based units for reduction to start.
Of the brigade combat teams to be inactivated, the first two to be announced were in Germany. By the end of 2017, troop strength in U.S. Army Europe is projected to be reduced by 45 percent since 2006. Correspondingly, the Army is reducing its total facility square footage in Europe by 54 percent.
The story is similar in Korea. The Army has reduced its forces by over 10,000 Soldiers in Korea over the last six years, and has closed 31 sites, with 7,300 acres returned. Over the next four years, the Army plans to close another 22 sites and return 9,400 acres to the host nation.