U.S. Rep. Jack Kingston, R-Ga., gave the Hinesville Rotary Club straight talk Tuesday on defense and other issues.
Hinesville Mayor Jim Thomas introduced the District 1 congressional representative, saying Kingston always has been supportive of the military and military families.
Kingston told Rotarians he would keep pushing for an additional brigade for Fort Stewart-Hunter Army Airfield, but he warned that the Army is expected to reduce forces by 27,000 troops and therefore could cut up to 10 brigades.
“We may need to shift our focus and hold on to what we’ve got,” Kingston said. The congressman said he met with 3rd Infantry Division Commander Maj. Gen. Robert “Abe” Abrams earlier in the day to discuss the headquarters brigade’s upcoming fall deployment.
Kingston said Fort Stewart, with its proximity to ports, its vast training lands, upgraded infrastructure and aviation capabilities courtesy of Hunter, should not be greatly affected by federal budget cuts. Funds in the form of a military construction bill, if passed by the Senate over the next few weeks, still could bring millions of dollars to Fort Stewart, he said.
Kingston said progress seems to have been made in Iraq, as there were no combat-related deaths there in August. However, that calm could be deceiving, he said, adding that the Iraqis still could ask the U.S. military to remain there. Troops currently have a year-end pullout deadline.
Kingston said he was very concerned about Afghanistan. There currently are 130,000 troops there now, but the administration’s goal is to reduce troops to 67,000 by 2014.
The congressman also hinted that troops could be sent to help stabilize Libya’s new emerging government at some point.
Kingston also told Rotarians the No. 1 issue in the country at present is jobs.
“We’ve got to grow the economy,” he said. Kingston suggested the United States drill its own oil, thereby alleviating its dependence on oil-rich Arab nations; simplify the tax code; and loosen government regulations on business and industry.
Kingston also spoke about a guest-worker bill making its way through Congress. The bill specifically addresses many of Georgia’s farmers’ dependence on migrant workers.
Many Americans won’t perform the same backbreaking labor in the fields “under the hot sun” that many foreign workers are willing to do, Kingston said. He explained the H-2A Improvement Act will allow farmers to bring in foreign workers temporarily to perform specific jobs over specific periods of time. Kingston said immigration law should have some flexibility when it concerns agriculture.
Several Rotarians commented that members of Congress have not been able to work together successfully to solve the nation’s problems because of “all the bickering” lately.
Kingston said many in Washington, D.C., do work together for the benefit of the American people, but he conceded that leadership on the hard right or hard left “can hijack a bill in the name of the base.”
“Someday the pendulum will swing back and the common-sense representatives will reign again,” he said.
Kingston is expected to head back to Washington, D.C., this week.