WASHINGTON — Army Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Milley said he would not remove the 4-25 Infantry Brigade Combat Team from Alaska for at least another year during a Senate Appropriations Committee hearing Wednesday.
Milley visited Alaska two weeks ago, making "good on a promise" to assess the 4-25 he made to Sen. Dan Sullivan, R-Alaska, during his nomination hearing last year, according to the senator.
The Army announced in July its plan to reduce the number of brigade combat teams from 32 to 30, which means converting two brigade combat teams at Fort Benning, Georgia, and Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Alaska, into smaller units by the end of fiscal 2017 as part of larger force reductions.
Both the 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division at Fort Benning and the 4th Airborne Brigade Combat Team, 25th Infantry Division at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson are planned to be reduced to battalion task forces and cut from 4,000 to 1,050 soldiers. The 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 25th Infantry Division at Schofield Barracks, Hawaii, will become an infantry brigade team and lose its Stryker vehicles.
And the Army is working with the National Guard to move the Strykers in Hawaii and convert the 81st Armored brigade combat team in Washington, Oregon and California to a Stryker brigade combat team for the Pacific and give the Guard Stryker Brigade Combat Teams on both coasts.
Many other installations will have significant cuts including Fort Hood and Fort Bliss in Texas; Joint Base Lewis McChord, Washington; and Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri.
Milley's testimony "confirms what I have been arguing for the past year — removing the US Army's 4-25 Infantry Brigade Combat Team makes zero strategic sense," Sullivan said Wednesday. "The 4-25 is the only extreme cold weather and mountain-trained airborne brigade combat team in the entire US Army, and the only one strategically located to respond to threats in the Asia-Pacific and the Arctic.
"While Gen. Milley's public testimony today is an important step, there is still work to be done to ensure that the 4-25 is retained in Alaska and the entire US Army remains ready to fight and win if called upon."
Sullivan has fought for the past 14 months to keep the 4-25 IBCT at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson. He also included an amendment in last year's defense authorization to require the Pentagon to produce a new Arctic Strategy and an operational plan for the Arctic region.
Eric Fanning, the presidential nominee to become the next US Army secretary, vowed during his nomination hearing in January that he'd review the cuts the Army made last year to brigade combat teams. His nomination is still pending.
Jen Judson is an award-winning journalist covering land warfare for Defense News. She has also worked for Politico and Inside Defense. She holds a Master of Science degree in journalism from Boston University and a Bachelor of Arts degree from Kenyon College.