JEFFERSON CITY — The U.S. Army plans to reduce the number of personnel at Fort Leonard Wood by 885 — a cut that Missouri's top elected officials said Tuesday was far better than what could have occurred.
The reductions announced Tuesday are part of the Army's plan to trim forces by 80,000 soldiers over the next several years. Earlier this year, a draft plan had looked at cutting as many as 3,900 uniformed personnel from Fort Leonard Wood.
Instead, the 885-person reduction to be phased in by 2017 will keep the same proportion of the Army's current total uniformed personnel located at the south-central Missouri fort.
Army figures show 5,978 personnel were stationed at Fort Leonard Wood in 2012. The new plans call for 5,093 to be there in 2019. Tens of thousands of soldiers pass through Fort Leonard Wood annually as part of their training, which will continue.
"The Army's limited, proportionate reduction here confirms that the post is a crucial component of the Army's future," Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon said in a written statement.
U.S. Sens. Claire McCaskill and Roy Blunt issued a joint statement calling Tuesday's announcement a "modest troop reduction."
"The announced reductions, while significant, could have been far worse, putting our military readiness in jeopardy," said Missouri's two U.S. senators.
The Army's plans for Fort Leonard Wood call for the inactivation of the Engineer Battalion Headquarters, three engineer construction companies and a brigade support battalion.
More than 1,000 citizens, business leaders and local officials participated in a "listening session" with Army officials in April to urge that Fort Leonard Wood be spared from large cuts, said Joe Driskill, executive director of the Sustainable Ozarks Partnership, a new regional group focused on Fort Leonard Wood's long-term future.
Driskill said he thinks that made a difference in the Army's decision.
"We were able to show that the cost of living in our region is significantly lower than at most other Army installations, that the quality of services — especially education — is beneficial to Army families, and that the fort has no outside land encroachment issues that are common at many other installations," Driskill said in a written statement.
U.S. Rep. Vicky Hartzler, who represents the area, also issued a statement expressing pleasure that Army officials listened to community members who expressed concerns about the potentially larger cuts.
"While any reduction in personnel is never easy to accept, I am pleased that the Army has made a prudent decision to lessen the initial extreme cuts to a more modest decrease," Hartzler said.