The U.S. military is in many ways like a business. There are periods of growth, and periods of contraction.
Citing fiscal woes and the withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan and Iraq, the Pentagon has announced plans to reduce the Army to 450,000 personnel – the smallest since before World War II.
Fortunately for Augusta, business at Fort Gordon has become more “recession-proof.”
Thanks to the relocation of the Army’s Cyber Command to Augusta, the region’s largest employer is expected to see an influx of more than 5,000 military, civilian and contractor personnel to work on what the Department of Defense calls a top national security priority – cyber warfare.
This growth comes at a time when Georgia’s other major Army bases are shedding military and civilian jobs, including Fort Stewart near Savannah, which is scheduled to lose 1,900 soldiers by next year when the 2nd Brigade is shuttered in a downsizing.
Columbus’ Fort Benning expects to move soldiers into jobs previously filled by civilians and possibly will eliminate some civilian jobs as the Army prepares to enlist fewer soldiers.
Fort Gordon already is home of the U.S. Army Signal Center, a National Security Agency complex and the Dwight D. Eisenhower Army Medical Center. Now it should be at the cutting edge of next-generation warfare for the foreseeable future when Cyber Command is expected to be fully operational by 2019.
Construction of the Cyber Command facilities, designed to help defend the United States from emerging Internet and computer-based threats, represents an investment that officials say could top $240 million.
Economic development officials call the project the best news for the regional economy since development of the Savannah River Site in the 1950s.
The jobs created during the next five years will be highly skilled positions in which noncommissioned officers earn $50,000 or more; government civilian employees make $70,000 and up; and upper-level commissioned officers earn $100,000 and beyond.
And with no new housing created on base, those employees and their families will rely on the local housing market for their needs – a boon to the area’s real-estate development market.
As for construction on the base, Army estimates show 202 jobs created next year to build and operate the 179,056-square-foot facility that will house the new command, with an associated 83 jobs that will arise because of the development, with a $13 million labor income impact.
By 2017, the numbers grow to 1,026, with a $62 million income impact.
Then in 2019, when Cyber Command is expanded to planned levels, the Army estimates 2,029 jobs, including more than 1,514 directly created jobs and 515 induced, with an annual income impact of $154 million, to continue “for the foreseeable future.”
The region should be thankful there will be steady demand for Fort Gordon’s services for a very long time. In a community that traditionally takes great pride in the U.S. military, the military’s reinvigorated investment in the Augusta area is a natural fit, poised to reap