Fort Stewart statement
“The Army is developing future growth plans and guidance to the field based on Sec. Gates guidance. We expect that guidance to come before mid May. We have heard nothing to indicate the growth projected for Fort Stewart by the Vice Chief of Staff in December 2007 has been changed. We are continuing with our efforts to accommodate that growth and will continue to do so. Fort Stewart is a robust, important Army and DoD facility with great training and deployment features....”
3rd ID Deputy PAO
In an attempt to tighten the budget, Defense Secretary Robert Gates announced last week that his proposal to President Obama would include capping the number of new brigade combat teams at 45, instead of 48.
And Fort Stewart stops short at 46.
But nothing is certain yet, explained Frank Norton of Hurt, Norton & Associates, Inc., a Washington D.C.-based lobbying firm.
“We are still in a positive condition to get the brigade,” Norton said at a meeting of developers and local officials Wednesday afternoon. “The fiscal [year] 2010 budget hasn’t been cleared yet.”
The verdict comes May 4, when the Pentagon’s 2010 budget is set.
A lot rides on the decision, according to the developers, bankers and elected officials, who want to do all they can to sway lawmakers against the Gates’ proposal.
“That’s why we’re all sitting here …let’s not be naïve about it,” said Brian Smith of The Heritage Bank to the 30 or so people packed into a conference room at the bank.
“We have all benefited from those soldiers,” county Commissioner Connie Thrift said, also referencing her small business. “So it’s a trickling effect for all of us.”
Hinesville Mayor Jim Thomas, a former Army project manager on post, calculated about $9 million worth of construction is already going on at Fort Stewart.
“For them to cut off almost a billion dollars doesn’t make any kind of sense to me,” he said.
“Sometimes common sense does not prevail in government,” said state Rep. Al Williams, D-Midway. “Our government — and we love it to death — is not always practical in their decisions.”
Flooding congressional mailboxes and phone lines seemed to be the agreed approach to plea the county’s case.
Thomas suggested focusing on the state’s democratic representatives, including John Barrow, Sanford Bishop, who serves on the House Appropriations Committee, and Hank Johnson. Williams called them “the most important voices that we have right now,” versus the county’s two Republican senators who aren’t “part of the Obama in-crowd” and Republican Rep. Jack Kingston.
“I think if we run scared we’ll do a lot of better,” Williams said. “Because Fort Stewart needs that brigade and we can’t force anybody to bring it to us.”
The mayor agreed.
“I’ll be willing to bet my paycheck…that Fort Bliss, Fort Carson are writing letters right now,” Thomas said. “We got to get out and compete with those folks.”
The county’s chance depends on everyone working together, according to developer Clay Sikes.
“I’ve watched over many generations of time…this community have many opportunities that we have let go…by virtue of the fact that we could not get ourselves together in a common way to do what’s in the best interest of the community,” Sikes said.
For now, the mayor said the group will focus on what we know.
“And what we know is this: Until someone says this brigade is not coming, it is still coming and we need to work in that fashion,” Thomas said.
Paul Andreshak, Friends of Liberty executive director, agreed it was important to stay optimistic.
Local real estate broker George Holtzman wanted to know where the county stands in transportation, considering the $35 million Hinesville bypass, still yet to be built, that would have the most impact on soldiers.
Hinesville Mayor Jim Thomas said he put in four roads for the first round of stimulus funds, 15th Street, Highway 84, Airport Road and the road going to the MidCoast Regional Airport.
Widening Highway 144 and the Hinesville bypass are on tap to be submitted for the second round.
“So we’re trying to make sure we’re in on every point on the compass in getting stimulus funds in,” Thomas said. “And we’ve been fairly successful so far.”