As the U.S. Army assesses how to make inevitable post-war cuts in its budget and numbers, Colorado Springs leaders have decided not to take anything for granted about Fort Carson’s future.
With less than a week remaining in a public comment period that’s part of the Army analyzing all of its installations prior to recommending how to implement cuts, the Colorado Springs Regional Business Alliance and its Military Affairs Council rolled out a campaign Tuesday aimed at creating a major show of public support for the Army’s local presence.
This isn’t a low-energy effort, either. That comment period ends Monday, Aug. 25, and other areas with nearby Army posts — such as Joint Base Lewis-McChord in Tacoma, Wash. — have been pushing in recent weeks for heavy public responses.
Nobody knows whether or how much those public comments might influence the process. Initially, the Regional Business Alliance had focused its efforts on pulling together feedback from civic and business leaders as well as retired military.
“We’re behind in that effort,” said Steve Dant, chairman of the Military Affairs Council, at a news conference. “This time we have to go above and beyond, because there are no guarantees. We need to catch up.”
Several thousand pre-printed postcards are being distributed at such places as the County Clerk and Recorder’s offices, the USA Pro Challenge cycling event Thursday and other events. They include a letter of support for Fort Carson, requiring only a signature. They can be stamped and mailed, given to the clerk offices, or even submitted online.
“There’s a time when we all have to step up,” said Merv Bennett, City Council president pro-tem. “This is one of those times.”
Andy Merritt, chief defense industry officer for the Business Alliance, said the RBA will collect as many signed cards as possible and make sure they’re delivered to the Pentagon by the public comment deadline.
“It’s not too late,” Merritt said. “We have the time to get this done.”
But Dant, also president and CEO of Fox 21 television station, said, “We don’t need hundreds, we need thousands.”
Army officials at the Pentagon have indicated they might reduce the Army’s total manpower from what had been a high of 567,000 several years ago as low as 420,000 by 2020. They also instructed each installation to prepare scenarios for how to handle losing huge numbers of soldiers. At Fort Carson, it could mean losing up to 16,000 troops, which would translate to an economic impact of nearly $1 billion a year.
Officials indicated the Army might be taking a proactive route to minimize the possible effects of a possible BRAC (Base Reduction and Closure) process that could come in 2017. The difference is that the Pentagon would be making these decisions, while a BRAC process would be driven by Congress.
Anyone can send a personal comment by email to firstname.lastname@example.org or mail cards and letters to:
U.S. Army Environmental Command
ATTN: SPEA Public Comments
2450 Connell Road (Building 2264)
Joint Base San Antonio – Fort Sam Houston, TX 78234-7664
For those wanting help on wording, here’s the pre-printed message on the postcard:
Dear Army Leaders,
I am proud that the Pikes Peak region is home to the brave men and women stationed at Fort Carson. Their sacrifices keep our country FREE. I want you to know that this community is committed to supporting them and their families in keeping Fort Carson the best assignment in the US Army. I hope that the Army recognizes the value of Fort Carson and the surrounding communities and keeps a strong presence here. Thank you for your service to our country!