FORT BENNING, GA (WTVM) - Fort Benning could face massive layoffs in an Army draw down, according to the Greater Columbus Chamber of Commerce's Military Liaison Gary Allen Jones.
If this happens, Jones said the effects could be devastating to Columbus and time is running out for the community to respond.
Fourteen thousand jobs could possibly be on the chopping block, "impacting about 27,000 residents, and when you consider salaries, sales purchases and taxes, we could impact this region up to $1.3 billion," he explained.
It will be a huge blow to the thriving community of Columbus.
"The Army is in the process of drawing down from 570 to 490,000 soldiers," stated Jones.
And if you throw sequestration or automatic budget cuts into the equation, the picture gets even worse.
"But if sequestration is not stopped, the Army will have to downsize to 420,000," Jones said.
That's a whopping 150,000 soldiers taken from the force.
"The current structure the Army has, it cannot maintain at some 420,000," he added.
Now the military is analyzing all 30 Army installations to determine the best way to go about downsizing, and that's where the public plays a part.
"The U.S. Army and Environmental Command must receive input from the community no later by the 25th of August of this year."
In 2013, sequestration or automatic budget cuts sliced the Army's bottom line numbers by a whopping $587 billion, but Fort Benning was spared. Jones said they showed the benefit of the 3rd Brigade and why it needed to stay at Fort Benning. He said he and his team are prepared to do the same thing this time around.
"We believe we can come up with a supporting case that will show there's been some $7 billion in this region between the Department of Defense and this region contributed towards Fort Benning. We're prepared to support Fort Benning growing not getting smaller."
But that's just one piece of the puzzle. Jones added they also need the community to give their input. He's asking everyone to send letters to the Army or an email. There's also a letter on the Chambers' website (http://www.columbusgachamber.com) that you can copy and paste into an email and send not only to the Army but to your local Congressmen in Washington.
Address; US Army Environmental Command.
ATTN: SPEA Public Comments,
2450 Connell Road, building 2264
Joint Base San Antonio-Fort Sam Houston, Texas 78234 -7664