Last week, the Army announced an accelerated drawdown of its forces to 450,000 active duty soldiers from 490,000 by the end of 2018. Fort Benning in Columbus is slated to lose 3,350 soldiers. Five other bases in Alaska, Washington, Hawaii and two in Texas, will shoulder the majority of the initial cuts of over 1,000 soldiers. Rep. Sanford Bishop blames budget cuts due to sequestration. “Our national security should not be held hostage by sequestration, Bishop wrote in a media release. “Due to the majority’s avoidable budget caps, the Army is being forced to reduce troop strength, training, and readiness. I believe it will adversely affect families and businesses around the Chattahoochee Valley. Congress must redouble its efforts to lift the budget caps and adequately fund all our nation’s strategic needs.”
And it’s not just soldiers and their families that will be impacted. The Army will also cut 17,000 civilian workers by the end of fiscal year 2017. These cuts also hit at the belly of morale. Fort Benning is the home to the 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division. It will become a maneuver battalion task force by 2017, which will reduce its need for training areas.
In the midst of the Army’s woes there are cautionary lessons for other branches of the military. The Army News Service reported that Brig. Gen. Randy George, director of force management for the Army, said during a news conference Thursday that “The Army followed a long and deliberate process that included utilization of a (Government Accountability Office-endorsed military value analysis process, and an inclusive total Army analysis, in order to determine the best construct for the Army, based on the threats we face and the current fiscal environment we must operate in.”
Where did Fort Benning land in this analysis of quality and availability of its training spaces? Benning’s MVA (military value assessment) scored in the bottom third. The impacts of defense budget cuts will soon roll through all of the services. More cuts could severely hamper our Air Force as it is called on more and more to send war fighters into the air rather than ground forces. The Air Force Times reported that the Air Force has started asking airmen to return to active duty and encouraging those ready to leave to stay on for at least two more years.
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For all the services, the solutions won’t be found in a ledger book. They sit in the halls of Congress. If senseless sequestration continues, further cleaver-like cuts will occur rather than a well-planned repositioning of our force strength. If members of Congress say what they mean about supporting our military, they better start showing it. The Army Chief of Staff Gen. Raymond Odierno said, echoed by Gen. George, that “The Army is able to now, and has been able in the past, to respond to a variety of scenarios, and multiple scenarios, at the same time. An end strength of 420,000 (if sequestration continues) will mean this is no longer possible.” That’s not a good situation for this nation.