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Army still a benefit to Liberty County

Courier editorial

POSTED: June 8, 2009 9:38 a.m.
Last week’s decision by the Department of Defense to not locate a fifth brigade at Fort Stewart is deeply disappointing to our community, another lesson that decisions made in Washington, D.C. are not written in stone.
Like states, local school systems, local governments and private businesses, the Army has been forced to reduce overall expenses and reduce the number of planned brigades from 48 to 45. The planned fifth brigade for Stewart would have been number 46.
Also, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates has said he believes increasing the number of troops in existing brigades will reduce the stress on soldiers more than increasing the number of brigades. Maybe Secretary Gates should have thought of that a year ago. Plans have been made, new housing construction has begun and Liberty County was promised an additional brigade. Now many of those plans are in limbo.
The bright spot for Liberty County is that many communities in Georgia and other states hit hard by the current recession would still gladly trade places with us. That’s because we continue to be poised for strong growth. Consider these facts:
• The Department of Defense has invested millions of dollars over the past few years in Fort Stewart to make the installation a premier training and deployment platform for the U.S Army. That investment will continue.
• Every year of eligibility, Fort Stewart has repeatedly been named the best managed Army installation in the country.
• With proximity to the ports in Savannah and Brunswick, Fort Stewart provides the Army with options for fast and decisive deployment to anywhere in the world.
• The sheer size of the installation gives the 3rd ID room for training and future growth.
• The Army has grown to its projected 550,000 troops and in the years ahead many of those additional troops will find their way to Fort Stewart or Hunter Army Airfield.
• At a minimum, Fort Stewart is scheduled to receive an additional 3,000-4,000 troops within the next few years.
The truth is many saw the pendulum begin to swing when the secretary of defense announced that the number of brigades would be capped at 45. Not only was Fort Stewart’s brigade nixed, but new brigades planned for Fort Carson and Fort Bliss were also cut from the 2010 budget.
Of course it’s also true that Georgia and the southeastern region of the state no longer have the political clout in Congress or with the executive branch that served us well 30 years ago. It is highly unlikely that we can reverse a decision made by the secretary of defense in the toughest economic climate since the Great Depression.
This decision by the DOD is a blow to our region but Liberty County is fortunate. Our community is still economically dependent on the continued existence and prosperity of the Fort Stewart military installation. The installation is still here and remains a crucial component of the Army’s defense initiative. Let’s get on with smart planning for the growth we know will come.
 

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