A new report from the Government Accountability Office shows that the number of civilian and military employees at Joint Base Lewis-McChord has increased by almost 64 percent since 2006, a pace that marked the fifth-fastest clip for any domestic military installation.
The base added about 20,600 civilian and military employees in that period, giving it a payroll of some 52,800 service members and civilians as of last year.
Lewis-McChord caught the attention of the GAO for a report looking at military bases that added or lost significant numbers of service members in the 2005 Base Realignment and Closure round.
The report primarily is concerned with how military growth impacts civilian communities surrounding bases, but it’s being released at a moment when the Defense Department is contemplating how and where to shrink its ranks.
That could lead to a new BRAC round in the years ahead, which would make the GAO’s recommendations about how to communicate with civilian leaders during a force reduction more relevant.
The GAO recommended that Defense provide more information earlier about growth and reductions to civilian communities surrounding installations so local governments can plan for changes.
The report noted that Lewis-McChord has swelled since 2006 because of the additions of new Stryker units as well as a consolidation of other forces from around the Army.
In 2006, Lewis-McChord had separate commands for the Air Force at McChord Air Field and for the Army at Fort Lewis. They now both operate under Army leadership as Lewis-McChord.
It’s not clear in the report if the airmen stationed at McChord in 2006 were counted in the numbers the GAO used for its growth analysis.
The installations that grew faster than Lewis-McChord were:
- The Army’s Fort Belvoir in Virginia, which more than doubled in size. It now has 45,796 civilian and military personnel.
- Fort Bliss in Texas, which grew by 84 percent. Its payroll tops 43,000.
- The Air Force-led Joint Base San Antonio, which grew by 72 percent. It now has 38,000 civilian and military employees.
- And, Fort Carson in Colorado, which grew by 67 percent. It has 30,900 civilian and military employees.
The numbers cited in the new GAO report could represent the high-water mark for the number of service members in the South Sound. The Army is considering cuts to its largest posts, and Lewis-McChord could lose up to 8,000 soldiers, according to planning documents.