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Joint Base Lewis-McChord is now official

Officials marked the start of a new organization, Monday

The colors of the new Joint Base Garrison were unveiled Monday. Photo by Melissa Renahan

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"This merger creates an even more powerful asset in the defense of our nation," said Army Col. Thomas Brittain, Joint Base Garrison commander. "We have worked together on deployments and now we are bringing that joint system back home."

As of Jan. 31, Fort Lewis and McChord Air Force base merged to become Joint Base Lewis-McChord (JBLM). The difference between this merger and one in the corporate world is that there will be no reduction in workforce here. In fact, base officials expect that the realignment will create new jobs as they work to improve services on the base. Department of the Air Force civilians will keep their positions but be systematically transferred to the Department of the Army over the next eight months.

"The biggest expenses we face now are administrative. The relocation of base employees along with the set-up of different offices," said Joint Basing PA Specialist, Joe Jimenez. "Plus there will be costs involved with rebranding, starting with replacing signage."

The hope is that the joint base system will eventually yield cost savings in the form of utilities and contracts. Of the 12 existing joint bases, JBLM is the largest under Army management and the only one with a Corps command. It would stand to reason that since the Air Force faces the most changes they would be apprehensive, but according to Jimenez, supporting the Air Force's mission was always a top priority.

"We are excited. This is about finding the best practices, decreasing the duplication of services and working towards common solutions that deliver improvements," said Air Force Col. Kenny Weldon, deputy commander, Joint Base Garrison.

Both the Army and Air Force have separate missions and systems in place to accomplish their operational duties, and there are no plans for conversions of those, officials have said.

"Despite all that went on before now, the real work starts today," said Brittain. "Through a phased integration JBLM will control everything that is not considered fly away, go-to-war services for the installation." In total, there are 49 functions for the city that JBLM will handle.

The transition will be complete by Oct. 1, at the start of the new fiscal year. By that time, all contracts and services will be provided through the Army. JBLM will support a population on base and in neighboring communities of more than 100,000 people.

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