Defense spending changes could reach Fort Gordon

Four of the military’s highest ranking officials testified before the House Armed Services Committee earlier this week, outlining equipment, personnel and financial shortfalls threatening the military readiness of the nation’s forces.

 

Fort Gordon is the Augusta area’s largest employer with over 24,000 military, civilian and contractor employees. The Fort Gordon Alliance estimates the annual economic impact from the Army base at around $2.4 billion a year.

That number is likely to grow as U.S. Army Cyber Command moves onto the installation during the next couple of years. While individual installation numbers and shortfalls were not part of Tuesday’s state of the military hearing, recommendations from the four officials could have big impacts on military spending and Fort Gordon.

Fort Gordon’s economic impact stretches across the Savannah River into South Carolina’s Second Congressional District. Congressman Joe Wilson, R-S.C., represents that district and is chairman of the Readiness Subcommittee of the Armed Services Committee.

“When you have military installations so connected to the community, sequestration or any cuts in spending are not only detrimental to readiness, but to the community at large,” Wilson said.

Sequestration came in the form of the Budget Control Act in 2011 that slashed defense spending. During the hearing, that act was recommended for repeal, a sentiment shared byCongressman Rick Allen of Augusta.

“Before taking office, President Trump said he would ask Congress to “fully eliminate the defense sequester” and plans to submit a new budget to rebuild our military. Echoing this, I am working with my colleagues on a letter to House leadership requesting that we repeal sequestration and bolster defense spending,” said Allen, a Republican.

Wilson said, “All options are on the table when it comes to addressing the readiness crisis, and I have been a longtime advocate for ending defense sequestration.”

During the hearing, Vice Chief of Staff of the Army Gen. Daniel Allyn told the committee only a few of the Army’s combat brigades are currently ready to deploy should the need arise. He said the vast majority would need about 30 days to prepare.

Committee chairman Rep. Mac Thornberry, R-Texas, said, “I kind of hope the enemy will accommodate those 30 days so that we would be ready.”

All four officials also endorsed a new round of base realignment and closure, or BRAC hearings. The last round of BRAC hearings saved hundreds of millions of dollar in costs that Allyn said could be immediately reinvested into readiness.

Funds for each branch of service are set forth and authorized by the annual National Defense Authorization Act. The NDAA for 2017 authorized $100 million in military construction at Fort Gordon along with a 2.1 percent pay increase for military service members.

Both Allen and Wilson said they are encouraged by the clear military support under the new Trump Administration.

“I am working with my colleagues on a letter to House leadership requesting that we repeal sequestration and bolster defense spending,” Allen said. “Now, with a new Administration and a unified Congress, it is my hope that we can close the military readiness gap, and that each new day means we are safer than we were the day before.”

Wilson said he was ready to be part of that leadership.

“I’m grateful that the President is taking meaningful steps to address the crisis, and, as Chairman of the House Armed Services Subcommittee on Readiness, I am eager to lead the efforts here in Congress,” he said.

Thomas Gardiner can be reached at (706) 823-3339 or at thomas.gardiner@augustachronicle.com.

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