Hagel: Carson will see ‘manpower increase’

The Army will approach restructuring its combat brigades carefully, in order to maintain readiness and flexibility, Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel during his visit Friday to Fort Carson.

“We had to restructure, by law,” he said. “The Army decided to deactivate 12 brigrades. That decision affects this base. But in the long run, this base’s manpower will increase as adjustments are made.”

Hagel was referring to the decision announced earlier this week to deactivate the 3rd Brigade Combat Team of the 4th Infantry Division. The unit has 3,750 soldiers, and all but 750 of them will be absorbed into the remaining three BCTs as the Army adds a battalion to each of the brigades. Field artillery and engineering soldiers will also be added to the brigades to increase their combat power, and a combat aviation brigade is set to bring more soldiers to the Mountain Post.

But the news that Carson won’t be damaged by restructuring was tempered by the fact that civilian workers – about 5,000 of them – have started taking off one day a week without pay under the federal Budget Control Act. It represents a 20 percent weekly cut in pay through September.

The furlough decision wasn’t made easily, Hagel told the assembled soldiers.

“It was a tough choice,” he said. “But the decision had to be made. It was difficult, difficult for all of us. I want to be honest about it. Furloughs are a tough thing, for anybody for any reason. We have to comply with the law, and we had to do it without hurting the military’s combat power.”

Hagel pointed to other actions from sequestration: “We’re not sailing as many ships and we’re not adding new Army training,” he said.

“We started with 22 days of furloughs,” he said. “And I thought we could do better. We brought it down to 11 days.”

Hagel was in the Springs to meet with leaders at U.S. Northern Command and to tour the Cheyenne Mountain Air Force Station.