Pentagon: Fort Benning keeps 3rd Brigade - WTVM.com-Columbus, GA News Weather & Sports

Pentagon: Fort Benning keeps 3rd Brigade

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FORT BENNING, GA (WTVM) -

80,000 soldier cuts within the next five years. That's the word from U.S. Army officials.

Across the board, the military is trimming its budget and our region has been on edge, waiting to hear how Fort Benning will fare. 

The Greater Columbus Chamber of Commerce said not only were local brigades spared, the Army plans to increase its presence here.     

The military is continuing its efforts to meet a major budget cutback. First it was Department of Defense civilian jobs taking the heat, receiving 11 days of furloughs this summer. Now the Army is preparing to realign its fighting forces and Fort Benning losing the 3rd Brigade was a real possibility.  To meet a $487 billion drawdown, Army service members need to be cut from somewhere.

"That is going to happen.  Fort Benning was looked at for up to 7,100 positions.  Once you consider family members, direct and indirect jobs, it equated to almost 18,000 people in this region," said Gary Jones, Greater Columbus Chamber of Commerce executive V.P.

Understanding the negative economic impact that Columbus would receive if those major cuts came to Fort Benning, local officials went to work on a plan. The Chamber of Commerce, along with a task force of city and state government heads, highlighted the growth potential in this area and showed how the Army would actually save money by keeping the 3rd Brigade here.

"We started working on this about eight months ago.  We've made several trips to Washington.  We talked to elected leadership in Washington as well as the leadership in Georgia," said Jones.

Pentagon officials were so impressed, they abandoned their plan to make cuts at Fort Benning, and then took it a step further.

 "Not only were we able to retain the 7,100 jobs, but in fact, the military will grow its presence here by an additional 76 personnel. A large proportion of them are going to live right here in our community and our region.  They'll coach our soccer teams, go to our Sunday school classes, and when they decide to leave the service, we hope they will stay and be integrated right into our workforce," said Jones.

At a time when Army posts throughout the country are lamenting their losses, Fort Benning has won a decisive victory.

 As mentioned before, these cuts are going to occur somewhere in the country no matter what.

 Army posts in eight states, including Fort Stewart, Georgia, will be experiencing reductions, but thanks in part to the efforts of local officials, Fort Benning isn't one of them.

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