A new Army report says Fort Gordon and Georgia could lose thousands of additional military jobs beyond current downsizing plans if Washington imposes future automatic budget cuts, though officials who keep a close watch on the state’s bases say they doubt such severe cutbacks will actually happen.
The report issued last week outlines the Army’s hypothetical, worst-case predictions for job losses at 30 bases across the U.S., including three in Georgia. It shows Fort Stewart near Savannah could lose up to 16,000 soldiers and civilian workers — more than three-fourths of its current workforce. In addition, Fort Benning in Columbus could shed as many as 10,800 jobs and Fort Gordon in Augusta faces up to 4,600 positions being axed.
All combined, the Army says, the cutbacks could cost Georgia $1.7 billion in lost annual income.
State and local officials who work to protect Georgia’s military interests said they’re not too alarmed. While the Army is downsizing from about 570,000 troops to a projected 450,000, its report was written to show how severe reductions could become if the Pentagon faces more automatic, across-the-board budget cuts because the president and Congress can’t agree on future budgets.
“While we of course take the Army processes seriously, this exercise seems to be built around worst-case scenarios not likely to pass muster in Congress,” said Will Ball, a former Navy secretary who heads a lobbying initiative launched by Gov. Nathan Deal to advocate for Georgia’s military bases.
Army commanders have warned Congress that more automatic cuts could force them to shrink the total force to 420,000 soldiers — a number they insist is too low to meet U.S. defense needs. The new base-by-base report essentially puts the cost in economic terms on a local level, showing policymakers and their constituents how painful the cuts could become in their home communities.