The U.S. Army plans to cut 4,350 soldiers from Georgia installations fewer than 1,000 from Fort Stewart as part of efforts to reduce its size, according to news releases from Georgia elected officials and the military.
Fort Stewart will lose 950 soldiers, and Fort Benning will lose 3,400 soldiers, according to the releases.
A Department of Defense news release issued Thursday says the Department of the Army will change the makeup of a few brigades, including converting the 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division at Fort Benning into a "maneuver battalion task force" by the end of 2017. The change will take the unit down to 1,050 soldiers. Brigade combat teams usually have 4,000 soldiers.
"The Army selected these brigade combat teams for reorganization based on a variety of factors, including strategic requirements and the inherent military value of the installations where they are based,” the DOD statement reads. “The force structure decisions announced today best posture a smaller Army to meet global commitments."
Late Thursday afternoon, Fort Stewart issued its own statement on the cuts.
"The 3rd ID’s mission does not change, nor does its value to the Army, due to these reductions," the release states.
When the cuts are fully implemented in 2017, Fort Stewart still will have more than 3,000 more active-duty soldiers than before Sept. 11, 2001, according to the release.
“The announced force structure and stationing decision validates the strategic value of our power projection force and communities, but certainly affects a few of our proudest units,” said Brig. Gen. Jim Blackburn, the Task Force Marne commander. “We want to reassure our southeast Georgia neighbors the impact on Fort Stewart is minimal.”
The post’s release says, “Some of the 950 soldiers to be cut at Fort Stewart will be achieved by reducing the size of the 3rd ID headquarters and reducing the size of some of the tenant units.”
The reduction of 950 soldiers equals the loss of 2,500 family members, according to the release.
“We’re also confident we will be able to minimize the impact of these reductions on our soldiers and their families,” Blackburn said. “Finally, rest assured, the 3rd ID, Fort Benning and Fort Stewart remain pivotal to our nation’s defense; we will continue to train to meet our nation’s needs.”
U.S. Sen. Johnny Isakson, R-Ga., spoke to Secretary of the Army John McHugh by phone Wednesday and learned about the reductions in Georgia.
The cuts are “part of the Department of Defense’s plans to reduce the Army nationwide by 40,000 soldiers, from the current level of 490,000 to 450,000 by the end of 2017,” according to a release from Isakson's office issued Wednesday.
“I am demanding answers from the Department of Defense on how they are justifying these troop cuts in Georgia,” Isakson said in the release.
He added, “We cannot afford to reduce our military readiness at a time when the threats to our security here at home and throughout the world are growing at an alarming rate. Instead, we should be using our military to send a clear signal to the rest of the world that America has no intention of standing down in the fight against the threat of terrorism worldwide.”
Additional cuts to the number of civilian personnel at military bases are expected but have not yet been announced by the DOD, the release states.
Fort Stewart’s press release Thursday stated that, “We anticipate that the majority of the Department of the Army civilian reductions will be absorbed through attrition and positions that are currently unfilled. The analysis of installation impacts for civilian reductions is ongoing.”
U.S. Rep. Buddy Carter, R-Ga., also released a statement Wednesday afternoon. He called the Army reductions “short-sighted.”
“With global instability on the rise and increasingly unpredictable threats, this draw down is short-sighted," he said. "Cutting troops at this time flies in the face of reality. I believe the No. 1 responsibility of the federal government is to provide a strong national defense, and I am increasingly concerned that we will render ourselves unable to respond to the threats we face around the globe."