Let’s not overreact to potential Army cuts

At first glance, the banner headline atop The Gazette’s front page on June 27 probably made many readers choke on their coffee.

“Carson could lose 16,000 troops,” that headline screamed.

Underneath, another line (we call them teasers) lured readers to a story in the Business section with this dire message: “Ripple effect — Maximum cuts would mean $1 billion in lost wages to the local economy, which would hurt many businesses, officials warn.”

From that, one might have felt Doomsday had arrived for Colorado Springs, and that everyone should make plans to escape as soon as possible.

The actual stories and subsequent information have conveyed a less-frightful message. Here’s a different version, with the hyperbole stripped away:

Army leaders have asked their primary installations worldwide to prepare for a worst-case scenario — based on sequestration continuing without Congress taking action — of losing 16,000 troops at each base by the year 2020.

Those cuts are far more than would ever become reality. If sequestration continues at full force, the Army (now at about 520,000) would have to cut about 100,000 more troops by 2020, down to 420,000. Add together the draconian cuts proposed to each installation, and that reduction would more than double, which will never happen.

From every indication, this is simply the Army’s strategy to shock Congress and the public into realizing sequestration isn’t a long-term answer. On a secondary level, the Army is sending a message to states and communities with nearby installations that their future might not be guaranteed.

It worked here. We’ve heard more concerns about Colorado lagging behind other states in preparing for the next rumored Base Reduction and Closure (BRAC) process in 2017. And there’s the revived fear that the Army might consider closing Fort Carson for other reasons, such as Colorado legalizing marijuana.

Never mind that we haven’t seen anything similar from Washington state, where Joint Base Lewis-McChord is located outside Tacoma.

It’s probably good for Colorado to have received this wakeup call, because it’s definitely a state issue, not just for Colorado Springs. Take away Fort Carson and the repercussions would impact all of the Front Range.

Colorado Springs still has a strong position in regard to having such a large military presence.

But the first concern has to be with Congress, which has been slow to replace the sequester effect that supposedly was just a temporary budget-cutting fix in 2011. We’ll see what happens in the November election, especially if Republicans regain control of the Senate as well as maintaining their clear edge in the House.

Another problem is that Republicans in Congress aren’t all on the same page. Many GOP lawmakers might favor stabilizing or even increasing Pentagon funding, but the tea party cluster isn’t as pro-military. Let’s remember, too, the Air Force made no such announcement about personnel cuts and how more budget reductions might affect its individual bases.

Colorado Springs still has a strong position in regard to having such a large military presence.

We still have the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) at Peterson AFB plus its backup inside Cheyenne Mountain. We still have the Air Force Space Command, based at Peterson. And we still have the Air Force Academy, of course.

We still have Schriever AFB, with its tenants including the 50th Space Wing, the Missile Defense Agency and operations support for 170-plus Department of Defense satellites, not to mention the 2nd Space Operations Squadron that handles command and control for the massive GPS (Global Positioning System) satellite “constellation,” as the Air Force calls it.

And lest we forget, we still have Fort Carson with its 4th Infantry Division, the Combat Aviation Brigade and other units, stable enough that just six months ago we reported on $242 million in approved additional military construction of new facilities on the Mountain Post.

What’s in our future? Who knows, perhaps a joint base here, combining commands as happened at Lewis-McChord, creating something that might be labeled as Joint Base Carson-Peterson.

The installations here always will be subject to the Pentagon moving or consolidating units, but that often has worked in Colorado Springs’ favor, as with the aviation brigade.

So, did our peers at The Gazette overreact in how they treated the story and the headlines they created? Definitely. They could have played down the idea of Doomsday for the local economy, and reported more prominently that all major Army facilities were asked to come up with the same worst-case numbers.

Our reaction is a bit different: First, exhale. Next, expect some decreases, for the military and local defense contractors. But let’s also make sure Colorado treats it as a state priority.

Nothing will change in the foreseeable future. But if we want to explore new ways to diversify our local economy, this might be the right time. nCSBJ

One Response to Let’s not overreact to potential Army cuts

  1. We still have this and still have that. Reads like the band playing on while the ship sinks. CS is making a huge mistake being dependent and relying on government business. The military will not always be here.

    Steven Shepard
    July 16, 2014 at 3:05 pm