The Department of the Army announced Tuesday that it intends to reduce the number of active-duty soldiers by 80,000 by 2017 — and Fort Stewart stands to lose 1,372 soldiers under the plan. The Army will draw down from 570,000 to 490,000 soldiers.
A spokesman from U.S. Rep. Jack Kingston’s office confirmed reports Tuesday afternoon that the installation will lose a brigade combat team, but he added that several battalions will be shuffled to reduce the loss.
Kingston spokesman Chris Crawford said the move results from the Budget Control Act of 2011 and Defense Planning Guidance issued in 2012. He emphasized that it is not related to sequestration.
An Army force-structure rollout document provided by Crawford said the plan does not address sequestration-driven cuts that could reduce the Army an additional 100,000 soldiers across all components.
“This is part of a larger restructuring in the Army, in which they’re going to be reducing troops by 80,000 worldwide,” he said, adding that though Fort Stewart is set to lose one brigade combat team, extra battalions will be added, “so the net loss will be 1,372 soldiers.”
Secretary of the Army John McHugh told Kingston that every installation with more than two brigade combat teams would lose one of them, Crawford reported. There is no word yet which unit Stewart will lose.
This restructuring equates to a loss of 12 active-component brigade combat teams, from 45 to 33, according to a news release from Fort Stewart. Nine other installations will be affected.
“The important thing here is this is in no way a reflection on Fort Stewart. This is just a larger Army restructuring. Even after the transition, Fort Stewart will still be up 4,500 troops since 2001,” Crawford said. “That doesn’t mean it’s not a disappointment, but it puts it into perspective.”
In 2001, Fort Stewart’s military population was 15,100. Today, the military population on Fort Stewart and the coastal region is 21,100. By 2019, the population is projected to be 19,700.
The 3rd Infantry Division’s Fort Stewart brigade combat teams not affected by this announcement will gain a maneuver battalion and fire-and-support elements. This provides additional maneuver capability, which fills a capability gap identified through analysis and feedback from tactical commanders, according to Fort Stewart’s release.
Additionally, the post will gain a fires brigade headquarters, a Gray Eagle company, a civil-affairs battalion, a heavy-transport company and a chemical-maintenance company.
When asked how other Army installations in Georgia will be affected, Crawford said the transition would include placing an additional 76 soldiers at Fort Benning and 250 soldiers at Fort Gordon.
He added the transition will take no later than the end of fiscal year 2017.
“We have some time, and as always, we’ll be working to identify new missions and see what we can be doing to get more folks there,” Crawford added.
Paul Andreshak, executive director of Southeast Georgia Friends of Fort Stewart and Hunter, was disheartened by the news.
“We did take the loss of a brigade five years ago in stride, so this is an additional disappointment because now we have about 1,400 soldiers over the next five years that are being lost to the Fort Stewart/Hunter Army Airfield community,” he said. “However, the community can take great pride in that we have presented our case to the Army, and we will continue to present our case.”
Andreshak was among a regional political delegation that traveled to Washington, D.C., earlier this month to impress upon federal representatives and Pentagon officials the impact that Fort Stewart has on Coastal Georgia.
Also on the trip were Hinesville Mayor Jim Thomas, Liberty County Commission Chairman Donald Lovette, Savannah Mayor Edna Jackson, Pembroke Mayor Mary Warnell and Col. Peter Hoffman, director of the Armstrong Atlantic State University Liberty Center.
A Pentagon representative acknowledged that cuts were coming, Andreshak said, but did not go into specifics.
“The only indication from her or from Installation Command, or from the G3 of the Army, was that, you know this cut is going to be spread as equitably as possible so that no one community is affected unjustly,” he said.
Though details still have to be arranged, Andreshak said he understands the plan would disband one brigade at each installation but would add one battalion to the remaining brigades.
“The bottom line is, we’ll have to deal with the cut as best we can,” he said. “And hopefully the community will rally, and we will continue to plead our case and push our case for additional soldiers here and at Hunter Army Airfield at every opportunity.”
Fort Stewart’s release said nothing will change in the immediate future: “We’ll continue with our reset efforts, and we look forward to our troops returning from their deployment to Afghanistan.”