By Susanne Kappler, Fort Jackson LeaderMarch 27, 2014
FORT JACKSON, S.C. (March 27, 2014) -- Community leaders pledged their support of Fort Jackson after Brig. Gen. Bradley Becker, Fort Jackson's commanding general, briefed leaders of the greater Columbia area March 20 on the impact a possible sequestration in 2016 could have on Fort Jackson.
The Army is currently on track to reduce the strength of its active duty force from from 562,000 to 490,000, but sequestration-level budget cuts could necessitate a reduction to 420,000 active troops by 2019.
Those cuts could force the elimination of 2,400 military and 700 civilian positions on Fort Jackson, according to the Army's most recent Programmatic Environmental Assessment, or PEA, which was conducted for more than 30 military installations. Fort Jackson was not part of the Army's original PEA in 2013, but was added this year in light of the possibility of sequestration in 2016.
"It's important to know that the supplemental PEA does not reflect actual or projected losses, rather it provides an assessment of the possible environmental and socio-economic impact of the greatest magnitude for each installation," Becker said.
Becker said that the number of Soldiers who will be trained on Fort Jackson the next two years will not change, but that further reductions in troop strength could affect numbers at a later time.
Col. Dan Beatty, chief of staff for the Army Training Center and Fort Jackson, re-emphasized that the data from the supplemental PEA does not represent any present or future decisions about the personnel strength on Fort Jackson.
"It's simply an assessment at this point in time. ... It is a number (the Army) is using as a planning assumption to move forward with the entire plan of the force structure reduction," Beatty said. "Fort Jackson still trains the best Soldiers in the world. We do a dang good job of it. And I think the Army recognizes that we do it probably more efficiently than anybody else anywhere else."
Midlands community leaders said they would do everything in their power to avert cuts to Fort Jackson's workforce.
"It's important that anyone within the sound of our voice understand that we are unified across every demographic, across every strata, across every false political line we have dividing us - we are unified in our full support of Fort Jackson and each and every thing that Gen. Becker and his team are doing over there," said Columbia Mayor Steve Benjamin.
That sentiment was shared by Holt Chetwood, chairman of the Greater Columbia Chamber of Commerce.
"I stand here today to say on behalf of the Columbia business community, we certainly support (Brig. Gen. Becker and his) staff, we support the Soldiers on Fort Jackson, and we will do everything we can to make sure you have the resources you need to be successful," Chetwood said.