The impact of a 4.3 percent cut in National Guard troops at the federal level means Maine will lose approximately 120 positions over the next three years, although no soldiers will be laid off.

Maine National Guard spokesman Sgt. 1st Class Peter Morrison confirmed Monday that the reduction in troops will take place through attrition, with some of those happening already.

For the current fiscal year, 40 positions will be eliminated, followed by 76 positions the following year and three in 2018. Only 20 of those positions are full-time.

Maine currently has roughly 2,400 Army Guard members, 500 of them full-time employees.

Brig. Gen. Doug Farnham, who was appointed by Gov. Paul LePage in December to lead the Maine National Guard, spoke about the reduction at an event last Friday. Farnham was not available for comment on Monday, but provided a statement.

“The Maine Army National Guard share of these cuts is approximately 120 positions over three years. No Maine Guardsmen will lose their position in a unit as we will manage any losses through attrition,” Farnham said. “It is hard to give the exact units that will be affected as the Army National Guard Force Management personnel are working very hard to support the modernization of our forces.

“We have a great working relationship with all involved, and seek to modernize equipment and capabilities throughout our units. Regardless of the units or their slight reductions, none of the authorizations we lose will create a job loss.”

According to a press release last November from the Army National Guard, the reduction in overall troops is expected to happen gradually through September 2017, from 350,200 soldiers down to 335,000.

“This is an overall Army effort to match our force structure to the resources available,” Army Lt. Gen. Timothy J. Kadavy, director of the Army Guard, said in a statement. “Our goal is to achieve these planned reductions through normal attrition rates as Soldiers depart from the Army Guard.”

As part of that, several units will be inactivated over the next two years, Kadavy said.

Although none of those units are from Maine, “this level of force structure change will mean turbulence to all 54 states, territories and the District of Columbia,” he said.

“When completed we will be a smaller Army and Army National Guard, so there will be risk in the speed and size of a response we can provide to governors in emergencies,” Kadavy said. “But we believe we have taken the right approach to ensuring the (Army Guard) can be ready for both our national and state missions.”

Last year, Maine faced the possibility of losing the 133rd Engineer Battalion after then-Brig. Gen. James Campbell attempted to initiate a swap of Maine’s engineers with an infantry unit from another state. That plan, which had already been initiated, fell through after it was revealed Campbell misled the public, and LePage, about his intentions regarding the 133rd.

LePage eventually fired Campbell and appointed Gen. Gerard Bolduc as the interim leader of the guard. Bolduc was then named by LePage to replace Campbell permanently but later withdrew his name for personal reasons. LePage then nominated Farnham, who had been a high-ranking leader of the Maine Air National Guard, based in Bangor.

Shortly before Bolduc removed his name from consideration for the permanent post, it was announced that Maine would not lose the 133rd battalion after all.

Farnham pointed out Monday that force structure is “never static,” and fluctuates annually depending on needs at the federal level.

 


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