In a reversal, US Army planners have decided to keep the nation’s only Arctic paratrooper unit at full-strength for the time being.
Last week, the US Army announced that it’s no longer considering cutting personnel from the 4th Airborne Brigade Combat Team, 25th Infantry Division. Also known as the "Spartans," or simply the "4-25th," the 3500-person strong unit is based at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson just outside Anchorage, Alaska and has a regional responsibility for both the Arctic and Asia-Pacific.
Army budget planners were initially seeking to reduce approximately 2,600 soldiers from the unit as part of a 2015 plan to downsize the entire Army by some 40,000 personnel. However, sparing the 4-25th from by the cuts laid out in the 2015 plan became a priority for Alaska’s Congressional delegation.
In particular, junior Senator Dan Sullivan (R-AK), himself a member US Marine Corps Reserve, publicly championed the cause of the 4-25th dozens of times over the past two years. Using his position as a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, Sullivan frequently brought up the need to keep the Army’s only airborne combat brigade in the Arctic and Asia-Pacific fully funded at various hearings. He also inserted specific language into various legislation calling for reviews of the Army’s budget needs for the Arctic.
Following the Army’s decision, Senator Sullivan released a statement saying, "I applaud the announcement that the Army has formally decided to keep the entirety of the 4-25 in Alaska for the foreseeable future. This is an important day for Alaska, and for the national security interests of the United States. This decision sends a clear message that our military leaders recognize the emerging security challenges in both the Arctic and the Asia-Pacific."
Senator Sullivan, as well as Alaska’s senior Senator Lisa Murkowski and Representative Don Young, frequently cited rising tensions and potential threats in both the Arctic and Asia-Pacific regions in their campaign to save the 4-25th.
Following the Army announcement, Senator Murkowski issued a press release stating, "Today is a victory for Anchorage, for our state, and for our national security as a whole....it would be contrary to our national security interest to cut the only Arctic-trained military units that is [sic] also ready to deploy anywhere in the Pacific."
In addition to citing national security interests in their campaign to keep the 4-25th intact, the Congressmen also cited economic factors; the thousands of soldiers that call Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson home also play an important role in the local Anchorage economy.
The dogged efforts of Sen. Sullivan, Sen. Murkowski, and Rep. Young mean that the 4-25th is the only unit picked out by the Army’s 2015 plan to escape any personnel cuts. Si, the Alaskan Congressional delegation succeeded in getting the cuts delayed and later postponed indefinitely before the Army announced it was no longer considering any cuts on April 7.
While announcing that the 4-25th wouldn’t be cut, Army brass also announced that 1,500 soldiers from the 4-25th will deploy to Afghanistan in the coming months.