The U.S. Army will propose shutting down a Pennsylvania National Guard brigade headquarters in Scranton with units based in eastern Pennsylvania by late 2016.
The cuts would amount to roughly 1,400 soldiers, due to the closing of the brigade and its affiliated units in Philadelphia, Sellersville, Wilkes-Barre and Lewisburg.
The proposed changes are part of a larger plan for deep cuts announced by U.S Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel in late February.
Maj. Wesley Craig, adjutant general, has vigorously opposed the effort, calling it a foolhardy way to trim military costs.
“We are a huge bargain,” Craig said, contrasting his citizen soldiers to active-duty military. Guardsmen, he said, receive fewer benefits, have lower health care costs, and are only paid when they train.
“There is a clear way to save other than what the Army wants to do,” Craig said. “What the Army is obviously trying to do is retain every single soldier they possibly can on the active side. And if … there’s going to be less people in the Guard reserve, so be it, they don’t care.”
The resulting loss would amount to about 9 percent of the Pennsylvania Guard. Craig said the Guard’s most recent comparable cut was roughly 4 percent, sustained in 1993 after the Gulf War.
The proposed changes would take effect September 2016, but first they must be approved by Congress. All 50 state governors are already lobbying against the plan.
Gov. Tom Corbett will address the Pennsylvania National Guard Association Saturday in Harrisburg, where he’s also expected to voice his opposition. Corbett served in the Guard for 12 years, and has relied on the troops in recent years to help respond to natural disasters.
“We’re his 911 force for domestic emergencies like Tropical Storm Lee and Hurricane Sandy and all that,” Craig said. “The storm rolls in, and we’re right out in the street, as soon as it leaves. And if you have less guardsmen, and less military armories, or readiness centers, you have less ability to do that.”