FORT BENNING, Ga. — Less than a month after announcing 250 civilian jobs had been lost in its fiscal year 2012 budget, Fort Benning faces more uncertainty for years beyond under a leaner defense budget.
The concerns come after President Obama and administration officials announced $487 billion in military cuts over the next decade.
Gary A. Jones, the director of public affairs for the Maneuver Center of Excellence, wouldn’t comment on the president’s plans but noted officials’ interest in budgets for fiscal years 2013, 2014 and 2015. Details on the cuts won’t be outlined until a budget session next month.
“I envision there are going to be some significant changes coming, but I don’t know what those changes are going to be yet,” Jones said. “We really are going to have to do a lot of work here locally to figure out what that’s going to mean to Fort Benning.”
It’s unknown whether the cuts will further impact the post’s 2012 budget, which went into effect Oct. 1.
The post has pared 200 jobs and must cut 50 more to reach the Army’s goal.
“We don’t know until we see the numbers,” Jones said of the latest cuts. “As anything with a big organization, you can’t wait until the last minute to start implementing changes. Until we know what that level of change needs to be, which we anticipate is probably going to be significant, we don’t know what significant means yet.”
With the completion of the Base Realignment and Closure process that moved the U.S. Armor School from Fort Knox, Ky., and other changes on post, Fort Benning has fared better than other military installations.
With the addition of BRAC and $3.5 billion in improvements, the post trains about 16,500 soldiers daily between the Armor School and Infantry School.
U.S. Rep. Sanford Bishop Jr., D-Albany, agrees that Fort Benning will fare well even with changes in the defense budget. Downsizing of the infantry means there won’t be as much of a need for support personnel as has been projected.
Cuts presented by the president are based on the Strategic Defense Review, Bishop said.
“We will have a much better sense of it probably once we get back,” said Bishop, whose district includes Fort Benning and part of south Columbus. “I’m convinced that whatever happens, it will not compromise our ability to provide for our national defense and homeland security any more than absolutely necessary.”
Paul Voorhees, the Columbus owner of Ranger Joe’s, one of the world’s largest military supply companies, said Friday he, too, thinks Fort Benning will be fine.
“That is what I’m feeling,” he said. “If we go back to 2008 for the entire budget of the United States government, we will be a lot better off. We could manage our debt.”
Even before the cuts were announced, Voorhees said his company has recognized less business from cities and counties since 2008.
“I hate that we have to tighten our belt to a certain extent,” said Voorhees, who also supplies materials for law enforcement agencies. “Right now, your government contracts are not much and counties and cities around the country have cut back on ordering because they don’t have any money, any revenue. We have been feeling that since 2008. There are some serious things with our budgets around the country.”
With locations in Columbus and at Fort Stewart, Voorhees said he’s thankful he hasn’t had to lay off any in his staff of 120 people.
“It is a gift from God,” Voorhees said of Fort Benning. “Everyone who walks off that base, we need to treat them like the gold they are.”