Defense summit discusses impact of military cuts on Fort Benning

By Sara Belsole

COLUMBUS, GA –   On top of the threat of the fiscal cliff and sequestration, there are also anticipated cuts in the Department of Defense. So elected officials and city leaders met at the National Infantry Museum Monday to discuss the impact Fort Benning has on our local community.

“Every aspect of our government, including defense, will have some reductions,” Congressman Sanford Bishop says.

 For the Department of Defense, those cuts are $500 billion over the next decade, including $55 billion in cuts in 2013 alone.

And if Congress fails to reach an agreement by the end of this month and the United States falls off the fiscal cliff, that could mean additional cuts.

So what does that mean for Fort Benning?

“It's where you  jump start the Army and it plays a very very key roll in our national security, but it also plays a very key role in our local economy in our area,” Former Commanding General of Fort Benning, Carmen Cavezza, says.

Fort Benning is the sixth largest Army installation in the country, training almost half of the Army's soldiers.

Since 2006, $3.7 billion were allocated to the base for Base Realignment and Closure, and by 2016 all that money will be spent.

Fort Benning salaries and contracts add almost $3.5 billion into the local economy each year.

“A significant hit on Fort Benning will be a significant hit on our economy locally,” Cavezza says.

That's why local leaders say ongoing dialogue like that prompted at Monday's summit, is so important. Officials say what's most troubling is the uncertainty.

“Our country is at a very critical time and there are so many things that are now not clear,” Bishop says.

Most uncertain, how big those additional sequester cuts could be and how Fort Benning will compensate.

“I have no idea. Usually people are the big cost factor and usually when you have cuts, you cut people,” Cavezza says.

The sequester cuts would total $1.2 trillion split evenly between defense and domestic spending.

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