Efforts to keep the 4/25 Airborne Brigade Combat Team at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson might be paying off. Wednesday, the Chief of Staff of the Army Gen. Mark Milley said he’d like to delay the cuts by one year. It’s still a proposal at this point, but welcome news for Alaska’s leaders.


Milley visited JBER a couple weeks ago. Sen. Dan Sullivan invited him to tour the base and inspect the 4/25 ABCT.


Milley made his comments Wednesday after Sen. Lisa Murkowski questioned him on the strategic importance of the brigade at a Defense Appropriations Subcommittee hearing.


The Army’s current plan is to reduce the 4,000-member 4/25 ABCT to an airborne task force of around 1,000 soldiers. JBER would lose around 2,600 troops. The cuts are expected to happen by the end of 2017.


Milley said he’d like to delay that for one year so the brigade is still available to respond if any hotspots in the Pacific region suddenly flare up.


“Russia is not only acting aggressively in Europe, they’re also asserting themselves in the Pacific, specifically in the Arctic. They’ve activated additional brigades, they’ve put up some command and control capabilities,” Milley said. “I think it would be contrary to strategic national security interests to go ahead and pull out the 4/25 at this time.”


The 4/25 is the only airborne-capable task force in the Pacific region.


“They can rapidly deploy, they’re less than eight hours from any hotspot, not only in the Pacific but in other parts of the world,” Milley explained. “The great joint strategic deployment platform with Air Force capabilities—they can move by air, they can move by sea. So we’ve got a national capability there that I think is worthwhile keeping.”


Murkowski thanked Milley for his comments at the hearing, saying, “That is very welcome news and much appreciated, and a true recognition of what we have with the only Airborne Brigade Combat Team there for the Pacific. Arctic-trained, mountain-trained, you know all the superlatives. So thank you for recognizing and acknowledging that. I look forward to working with you to ensure that the capabilities that we have with the 4-25th are continued to allow for that robust security that we need specifically at this time.”


Sullivan said he’s glad Milley recognized the 4/25’s strategic importance.


“This kick-in-the-door capability is vital to our national security and provides deterrence against increasingly aggressive actions from Russia, China, and North Korea,” he said. “Since General Milley was first nominated, I have appreciated his willingness to listen and understand why the 4-25 is important, not just to Alaska, but to our interests across the globe. And while General Milley’s public testimony today is an important step, there is still work to be done to ensure that the 4-25 is retained in Alaska.”


Gov. Bill Walker also weighed in, saying he appreciated Milley taking the time to visit Alaska and understand the military’s role in the state.


“Delaying the announced force reduction of up to 2,600 soldiers will protect our national interests and avoid the costly repair of rebuilding this valuable organization that currently exists in our state,” Walker said. “I will continue to work with the federal government and Alaska’s congressional delegation to ensure the military maintains a strong presence in Alaska for years to come.”


The Army has not made a final decision about delaying the cuts. A spokesperson for U.S. Army Alaska said leadership on base is moving ahead with planning for the cuts to be in place by the end of 2017. He acknowledged the waiting game is frustrating for Alaska’s soldiers and their families, who won’t know what the future holds until that decision is made.