Fort Hood-Central Texas Association of the United States Army’s corporate members on Wednesday heard about the Army’s budget, future challenges and what it all means for Fort Hood.
Retired Col. Bill Parry, the Heart of Texas Defense Alliance executive director, spoke to the group of about 150 people concerning the president’s budget versus the Defense Appropriations Act, sequestration, the possibility of a base realignment and closure process, and hurdles increased funding could face.
“The president’s budget is not the same thing as the National Defense Authorization Act or the Defense Appropriations Act,” Parry said. “We are waiting for the Defense Appropriations Act that will be out in the spring.”
Parry said national media has given a lot of attention to President Barack Obama’s budget, but that will likely be drastically changed by Congress as the appropriations bill is drafted.
A decline in funds for the Department of Defense is predicted, but the Army will determine how many of those cuts are handled, which could be a plus for Fort Hood, he said.
If Fort Hood is to grow, it would be a result of base realignment and closure process, Parry said.
In line with a possible BRAC, the Army already started to evaluate its overseas installations.
Other steps include drafting new language to seek a BRAC and evaluating how much Army post infrastructure is not being used, Parry said.
Because of Fort Hood’s size and infrastructure, the post is expected to be evaluated well in the process.
“If there are two bases left when the dust settles, Fort Hood would be one of them,” Parry said.
Sequestration and rising personnel costs are problems for the Army budget, Parry said.
Sequestration is planned to come back in full swing in 2016 and the highest cost — personnel — can’t be touched to deal with budgetary measures, he said.
“A hundred percent of sequestration is coming out of 50 percent of the budget,” he said.
At the same time, the Army is preparing to downsize, which may help contribute to a BRAC, Parry said.
Public opinion and the small fraction of the population could be a contributing factor in seeing military spending shrink, Parry said.
A recent Gallup poll of 1,023 adults showed 37 percent feel the U.S. is spending too much on defense, he said. Only 1 percent of the U.S. population is active military and 7 percent are veterans.
About 20 percent of congressional members served in the armed forces, which is the lowest number since the Vietnam War.
“Those are extremely low numbers,” Parry said.
No matter the challenges, AUSA will be there to support the Army especially in Central Texas, said John Crutchfield, vice president of the Fort Hood-Central Texas chapter of the nonprofit. “That is the real the role of AUSA, we are the lobbyist for the Army.”
Parry, who also is a member of the organization, was glad to speak to the group so he could translate the issue to a larger audience. “It is a complicated topic, and I try to give the unbiased truth as we see it.”