With current talks about sequestration, base realignment and closure (BRAC), troop reductions, and such, we are often approached with four questions — What is going on? Why does it matter? What are our elected officials doing? What can I do?
I will briefly answer those four questions beginning with the most common.
What is going on?
In June 2014, the Army released its 2013 Supplemental Programmatic Evaluation. In the SPEA, a potential population loss of 16,000 soldiers and Department of Defense civilian employees was cited as part of the Army’s 2020 force structure realignment options. This is the worst-case scenario.
As of Monday, no decisions have been made. Army officials are gathering data and running analyses to inform the Army what force reduction must be done to get the Army from 490,000 to 420,000 by 2019 according to requirements set by sequestration.
Why does it matters?
The future of Fort Stewart and Hunter is not only important to our region, but also to the nation. Our installation is a national strategic asset. Fort Stewart and Hunter is a premier power projection platform for the U.S. military, allowing all branches to train effectively and deploy rapidly.
On a local level, the current economic impact for the region is $4.9 billion annually. For the city of Hinesville, income alone brings $1.6 billion to the city. If you can imagine, the outcome could be catastrophic, resulting in business closures and layoffs. Furthermore, the effect would spread to other areas of the community that impact quality of life such as education, social, etc. That is why it is important to be proactive instead of reactive. Which leads me to the next question I usually get...
What are officials doing?
President Obama and congressional leaders said they want to stop the cuts, but Congress has yet to negotiate or pass a bill that would reverse the reductions. In the meantime, defense community groups and elected officials at the state and local levels are pressing federal lawmakers to act. Our local leaders work with Fort Stewart and Hunter Army leadership to support the mission as well as lobby Congress to protect Fort Stewart every chance they get.
During a visit to Liberty County in November 2014, Gen. Roger Cloutier, director of Army Force Management, said the following: “Washington is a long way from Fort Stewart and sometimes they don’t understand the granularity. Encourage people to let their voices be heard.”
This brings us to the most important question.
What can I do to help?
There are five ways you can do that today:
1. Join our regional defense community group, Southeast Georgia Friends of Fort Stewart and Hunter, or encourage organizations and individuals you know to join. There are membership options as low as $10 per month. By joining you will stay current on legislation, support lobbying efforts, and find out more ways you can assist in efforts. A membership form can be found at www.friendsofftstewartandhunter.com.
2. Contact your state and national leaders to encourage them to continue fighting for Fort Stewart and Hunter. Legislative contact information can be found on our website as well.
3. Offer support through donations, volunteering, and attendance at Army-related events. For example, New York realtors donated $23,000 to advertise a Fort Drum listening session to prevent BRAC closures; Southeast Georgia Friends of Fort Stewart and Hunter purchased newspaper ads and led social media campaigns for the Nov. 17, 2014, listening session in Liberty County; and several coastal Georgia cities and organizations also shuttled people to the listening session and helped spread the word. Anything you do to support helps.
4. Invest in your community by supporting all businesses and encouraging new businesses to relocate so that we have something to offer the soldiers and their families. Making coastal Georgia a comfortable place for soldiers and families helps them focus on their mission and gives the families a support network while the soldiers are at home or away.
5. Continue promoting partnerships. Collaboration and cooperation has been successful for us in the past. Seek new ways to partner and support our troops.
As you can see, this is not just a Liberty County or Chatham County issue, this is a regional and national issue. Everyone should be doing what they can to help Fort Stewart and Hunter as it faces the possibility of troop reductions. We can show you how.