Straight Talk: Lt. Gen. Stephen Lanza discusses Joint Base Lewis-McChord, the community and the future

By J.M. Simpson on June 10, 2014

Lt. Gen. Stephen Lanza understands perfectly well the function of a town hall meeting.

"This brings us together," the commander of I Corps at Joint Base Lewis-McChord said this morning.

"Members from the business community, academia and local government are here," he said to the nearly 100 listeners.

Eagles Pride Golf Course at DuPont hosted the two-hour event. 

In a candid, clear and relaxed manner, Lanza talked about the trust the Army and JBLM have built with the local area and the sustainment of the force as the country faces uncertain economic times.

"We will sustain the trust we have built with this community," Lanza said.  "Forums like this build on that trust."

He went on to discuss how the Army - which is resetting after the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq - will continue to train in order to respond to global challenges while facing reduction in force numbers.

The force's major area of responsibility lies in the Pacific.

"We will use past success to add to our capabilities," Lanza continued.  "We will use these capabilities to bridge to the future, but the future is problematic."

In other words, among other things the Army may be reduced to a force of 420,000 soldiers.

Discussing other challenges facing the Army, Lanza talked about the juggling act that is sequestration and BRAC, or Base Realignment and Closure.

"It isn't about winners and losers," Lanza continued in talking about BRAC.  "When we talk about closing bases, we must look at what is best for the nation."

While billed as a possible issue for discussion during the Town Hall, there was no discussion about the Supplemental Programmatic Environmental Assessment (SPEA), a tool that takes a look at the impacts of force drawdowns.

"I have no answer here on this," Lanza commented.

He added that in his view JBLM is fine, that it meets all the criteria as a power projection platform for an expeditionary-based Army.

"The base will be fine; the force structure is another point of discussion," Lanza said.

Closer to home, Lanza underscored the need for the private sector to engage with soldiers.

Washington state has taken point on this issue.

Governor Jay Inslee's first Executive Order (13-01): Veterans Transition Support emphasizes the point that Washington will remain as one of the best places for veterans in the country.

Formally known as the Washington State Military Transition Council, it works to build collaboration between federal, state and local agencies as well as private and non-profit organizations in providing transition assistance to service members and their families.

"We're working to connect the disparity here," Lanza continued.  "We want to harness a unity of effort."

During the question and answer session, Lanza faced a question about the future of the Cross Base Highway.

In a deft move, Lanza deferred to Ron Lucas, the mayor of Steilacoom.

"The first thing is to get State Route 167 built," Lucas explained about the highway to be built between Puyallup and Tacoma.

"The second thing is to fund the I-5/JBLM corridor."

Once those two costly projects are funded, then the discussion will turn to funding SR 167.

But the point had been made - a sense of cooperation between JBLM and I Corps' leader and a community leader.

"The Army as an institution will continue to move forward as a total force - active duty, Reserve and Guard," Lanza said.

"We will continue to defend America in order to build America."