FORT BENNING, Ga. – As warning shots of sequestration ring soundly in the ears of the military amid looming cuts, business, political and military leaders are preparing the state of Georgia to cope with what’s ahead.
Members of the Georgia House Military Affairs Study Committee met at the National Infantry Museum to discuss ways to lessen the impact in the Chattahoochee Valley. The Greater Columbus Chamber of Commerce hosted the briefing, inviting Fort Benning Commanding General Eric Wesley to share how the post plans to deal with Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC). Georgia Congressman Rep. Sanford Bishop (D, GA) calls BRAC a necessary evil to combat the shrinking military budget.
Sen. Johnny Isakson (R, GA) agrees that despite efforts to prevent budget cuts, the nation needs to get ready to act.
“We need to make sure that our states are prepared to accommodate our military installations, and I think there are things they need in training and preparing our troops,” Sen. Isakson said.
The Georgia senator is up for reelection this year, as he mentioned that over-regulation in any sector, including the military, could have dangerous effects on the local, state, and national levels.
“Fort Benning here in Columbus trains everyone in infantry, Airborne, and Ranger School, so they all come through here as well,” Sen. Isakson explained. “You just go around the state. Georgia’s got a significant investment in each branch of the military and it’s important that we preserve it.”
Besides troop reductions, education could also take a hit. Columbus State University spokesperson John Lester underscored the importance Fort Benning had on the educational community.
“For us in particular at Columbus State University, anywhere between 10-20% of our enrollment any given year is tied to the military,” Lester told News 3.
The consensus priority throughout sequestration is maintaining a strong national defense. However, money matters and the 150,000 Georgia military jobs at stake are close behind.
“If we think Fort Benning is going to decline or stay the same, then we’ve got to make sure we have jobs being provided in other sectors,” Greater Columbus Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Brian Anderson said.
Leaders say they want to take action ahead of troop reductions starting in 2018. Whether it’s protecting a military base in Fort Benning, Savannah, Warner Robins or anywhere in between, leaders in each region are coming together to plan for cuts that will affect the entire state. Georgia’s Military Affairs Study Panel is touring six cities across the state to gather ideas about what they can do to lessen the impact of military cuts.