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DoD further delays decision on 5th brigade
MG Tony Cucolo - photo by Courier file photo
Fort Stewart and Hinesville officials are still waiting for news on the 5th Brigade Combat Team.
According to Maj. Gen. Tony Cucolo, commander of the 3rd Infantry Division, the latest word coming from the U.S. Department of Defense is that a decision will be made by mid-June a to whether Fort Stewart will land the additional 5,000 troops and their families.
“The Army is studying right now what the best course of action is for the placement of that brigade,” Cucolo said Wednesday. “… the Georgia members of congress have made their concerns very clear to the Department of Defense and to the Secretary of Defense and from what I have been told the Secretary is taking a very close look at the budget …”
The team originally was scheduled to begin arriving on post at this time next year, but a recent change made by Secretary of Defense Robert Gates to the defense’s budget reduced the number of Army brigade combat teams from 48 to 45.
The move alarmed local officials who had already begun to plan for the team’s expected arrival.   
Cucolo said despite having to play the political waiting game, people should find comfort in knowing that funds allotted to the garrison for fiscal year 2009 are still being used to prepare for a troop increase at Fort Stewart. 
“The Army Corp of Engineers’ contract is still on,” he said. “Nothing [at Fort Stewart] has been turned off. ”
City officials said they have not stifled their lobbying efforts for the brigade combat team.
Earlier this week state Rep. Al Williams, D-Midway, visited Washington D.C. to lobby on the city’s behalf and  Mayor Jim Thomas repeated his familiar arguments, calling Fort Stewart the prime location for the team. 
“I am just hopeful the Secretary of Defense will make the decision to put the brigade here because we’ve worked hard for it and I still think this is the best place for it to be,” he said.
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