Possible defense cuts could affect more than Fort Benning - WTVM.com-Columbus, GA News Weather & Sports

Possible defense cuts could affect more than Fort Benning

COLUMBUS, GA (WTVM) -

Fort Benning could see big changes, as the United States Department of Defense faces the possibility of billions of dollars of cuts over the next ten years.

That is, if Congress does not reach a deal by the end of the year to avoid the fiscal cliff.

More than $50 billion in cuts next year is only the beginning of about $500 billion in cuts to government defense spending over the next decade. These cuts to the military will happen unless lawmakers come to an agreement by December 31 to avoid the fiscal cliff.

It is a debate that was front and center at Monday's Regional Defense Impact Summit inside the National Infantry Museum in Columbus.

"It would be devastating both to the defense side of the ledger which would result in I think a hollowing out of our military capacity and I think that is not a good thing," said U.S. Congressman Sanford Bishop (D-GA).

Bishop says the cuts could first hurt important programs on military installations like Fort Benning.

"Family support, health care, civilian employment because the resources that are available, well they will then be shifted to the actual war responsibilities," said Bishop.

Some officials say the cuts could also have an impact on the 10 counties surrounding Fort Benning.

"Close to $6 billion is its economic impact on this whole region. So, as the largest employer, whatever they have as far as issues, we need to make sure that we are right beside them. Working with them, helping and assisting and part of that is influencing federally elected officials," said Mike Gaymon, President and CEO of the Greater Columbus, Georgia Chamber of Commerce.

Former Fort Benning Commanding General Carmen Cavezza stresses the importance of our military staying ahead of other countries.

"If you are in a fight, wouldn't you like to be a little higher than the person you are fighting with or a little stronger? I mean, it is just as simple as that," said Cavezza.

Bishop says he believes a division can be reached, but he stressed that politicians from both parties need the will to meet at the table and reach an agreement. If not, the cuts will go into effect the beginning of January.

Copyright 2012 WTVM. All rights reserved.

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