Passed by Congress and waiting for the president's signature, the 2016 National Defense Authorization Act will mean cuts throughout the Department of Defense with the Army National Guard dropping from 350,000 to 342,000 troops by the end of the 2016 fiscal year in October.
In addition to 36 full-time Wisconsin Army National Guard jobs, the state is expected to lose as many as 274 part-time positions by 2017, mostly by dissolving three units: Chippewa Falls-based 724th Engineer Battalion headquarters and 949th Engineer Detachment, and the 724th Engineer Battalion Forward Support Co. in Hayward.
A Wisconsin National Guard spokesman said no layoffs are planned, instead jobs will be vacated through retirements and not renewing temporary federal technician positions past their current terms. Soldiers serving in the units that will dissolve can either move to other units or train for new jobs with different Wisconsin National Guard units.
Maj. Paul Rickert said Hayward and Chippewa Falls will not lose their National Guard armories. However, whether other units will be transferred to those cities is not known yet. The units will not close until 2017.
"Our community relationship is very important to us and we intend to maintain our presence in all the armories we're present in," Rickert said Monday. "While this will impact a number of positions across the Army National Guard this will not affect anyone's career. We'll be able to manage this through retirements and attrition."
Rickert said he couldn't comment on why those three National Guard units were singled out for closure other than to say the 724th and 949th were selected as part of the mandate through the National Guard Bureau.
With the war in Iraq over and the war in Afghanistan winding down, the Defense Department has been downsizing over the last few years and those cuts are being felt in every state's National Guard, Wisconsin included. Among the cuts are full-time Active Guard and Reserve personnel and federal technician positions in the National Guard -- the people who manage the day-to-day operations and handle paperwork.
"We do admit that will affect our overall readiness. Part of that paperwork is how we maintain certifications and medical requirements," Rickert said. "That being said, we will remain ready to serve the people of Wisconsin."