Fort Carson will lose a total of 750 soldiers under an Army restructuring process that was announced today.
The 3rd Brigade Combat Team will be deactivated under the plan, which includes 3,750 soldiers. But 3,000 of those soldiers will be absorbed into the remaining brigades, says Andy Merritt, chief defense industry officer at the Colorado Springs Regional Business Alliance.
“It’s not catastrophic,” he said, “and it certainly could have been worse.”
The Army plans to cut troops by 80,000 soldiers in the next four years. It is cutting the overall Army strength from last year’s 562,000 to 490,000 in upcoming years.
Basically, every Army post with two or more brigade combat teams will lose one. That means losses at Fort Bliss, Texas; Fort Bragg, N.C.; Fort Campbell, Ken.; Fort Riley, Kan. ;Fort Stewart, Ga., Fort Hood, Texas; Fort Drum, N.Y.; Fort Knox, Ken; and Joint Base Lewis-McChord in Tacoma, Wash. The cuts include two brigades in Germany. But like Fort Carson, many of those soldiers will be put into other units.
At Fort Stewart, Ga., for instance, a brigade is being cut, but total losses will equal 1,300 troops.
The Army originally wanted to cut eight brigade combat teams, but the reality of recent budget cuts raised the number to 10.
The Army is trying to cut costs and maintain readiness by standing up an additional battalion – between 600 and 800 soldiers – at each remaining brigade combat team, which typically has around 4,000 soldiers, according to official military reports.
And Merritt says there might even be cause for celebration. According to his reports, Fort Carson is set to grow by 1,800 soldiers by 2017, and its overall percentage of the active duty fighting force is set to grow as well.
“Some of it might be the combat aviation team that is due here,” he says. “But that’s only about 1,500 soldiers and some of them are here already. It’s interesting that they’re planning to see us grow.”
Merritt says the Mountain Post is set to grow from 3.98 percent of the overall Army force in 2012 to 5 percent by 2017.
“It’s good news,” he said. “The cut we’re going to see from this action is much smaller than it could have been. And we’re going to gain over the next few years.”
But there is still some uncertainty. Sequestration could lead to further cuts in Army personnel. And no one is certain about the timing of deactivating the 3rd Combat Brigade Team.
“They have until 2017,” he said. “So we don’t know yet when it will happen – or when this net gain might occur.”
Colorado Springs Congressman Doug Lamborn says the blow was softened by the lower number.
“I am very disappointed that Fort Carson is one of 10 bases around the country that will lose a brigade combat team,” he said in a statement. “However, the blow is considerably softened by teh fact that all but 750 of those soldiers will remain at Fort Carson and be reassigned to other missions.”
Lamborn confirmed that Fort Carson will grow by 1,800 active-duty personnel, thanks to restructuring in other parts of the Army.
“Downsizing at Ft. Carson simply does not make sense,” he said. “It is important to note these cuts are part of Army-wide restructuring, impacting bases in Europe and throughout the United States.”
Fort Carson will remain relevant to Army planning, Lamborn said.
“The good news is that Ft. Carson has other missions that the Army continues to grow such as aviation and special forces,” he said. “Next week the 4th Combat Aviation Brigade will officially be activated. The 4th CAB will bring dozens of helicopters and thousands of soldiers to Ft. Carson and this year alone is injecting over $260 million in construction into our local economy.”