Over the course of the next year, decisions could be made to drastically impact Fort Hood.
The Army must determine how to operate in a fiscally-constrained environment, yet remain ready for the next mission, said Maj. Gen. Anthony Ierardi, 1st Cavalry Division commander and current senior post commander.
The Budget Control Act of 2011 requires the Army to reduce the number of active-duty soldier by 80,000, from 570,000 to 490,000, by 2017. This has nothing to do with the unknown impact of sequestration, which took effect last month, or the potential for another round of Base Closure and Realignment, which the Defense Department proposed in its 2014 budget request last week.
Ierardi said the Army is required to cut eight brigade combat teams, and some of the inactivations are already underway in U.S. Army Europe. Two brigades have been inactivated and the Army announced V Corps, also in Europe, will inactive upon return from Afghanistan. Corresponding support units will also be cut. Fort Hood currently has five brigade combat teams — four heavy armored brigades in the 1st Cavalry Division, and 3rd Cavalry Regiment, a Stryker brigade.
Cuts in the works
Back in June, Army Chief of Staff and former III Corps commander Gen. Raymond T. Odierno, visited Fort Hood and said the post would “be fine,” despite these cuts.
“If you have five brigade combat teams, you’ll probably go to four,” Odierno said last year at Club Hood. However, he said, the net loss of soldiers will be minimal, as the Army is adding a third maneuver battalion to each brigade and more engineers and other support troops.
In January, the Army released the programmatic environmental assessment, a report that evaluates and assesses the environmental impacts of potential adjustments to Army forces at 21 installations, including Fort Hood.
The assessment also highlighted two alternatives for Fort Hood. In one, Fort Hood would gain 3,000 soldiers, and in another, it would lose 8,000, as well as 15 percent of its Department of the Army civilian jobs.
The annual economic impact of “Alternative Two” is an estimated loss of $3.8 billion statewide, said retired Col. Bill Parry, executive director of the Heart of Texas Defense Alliance, during an Army-hosted community listening session Monday night. The anticipated annual loss to the regional economy is $2.5 billion, he said.
Before making any decisions, the Army is looking internally — what’s available on post for soldiers and families — and externally.
What is available outside the gates to improve the quality of life for service members?
Ierardi spoke for the Army, outlining what the Army will look for at Fort Hood, during Monday’s two-hour event held at the Killeen Civic and Conference Center. Army decision makers will consider training areas and resources, deployment infrastructure, quality-of-life facilities and other components important to Army installations.
“Army leadership recognizes the significant contributions that soldiers, families and you, the Fort Hood community, make in support of our Fort Hood troopers,” Ierardi said to a room of more than 500 people. “I would stress that a final decision hasn’t been made and your input here tonight is important.
“I will listen to what you, the community, have to say and carry it back to the senior leadership of the Army,” he said of the report he is tasked with submitting. “They will consider your feedback as part of the final decisions.”
Col. Charles Walters, of the Army’s Force Management, was also listening on behalf of the Army and gathering information to report back to senior leadership at the Pentagon.
The Army’s assessment outlines specific community assets it will look for in the decision-making process, so Parry, who organized the community portion of the session, and seven local subject matter experts briefed Walters on topics including health care, education, employment and housing.
“In the assessment, it specifically stated things communities have to have ... so we focused on those areas the Army said were important to them,” Parry said.
“This was an opportunity to showcase the Central Texas community,” he said during Monday’s listening session, later adding the intent was to show Central Texas isn’t “all hat and no cattle,” but truly supporting the military every day.
“(Fort Hood) is a very capable installation supported by a very capable community,” Parry said.
A common theme throughout the seven presenters was partnerships — units partnering with schools; Fort Hood leaders working with local and state officials; and local businesses teaming with military employment programs. John Crutchfield, president of the Greater Killeen Chamber of Commerce, highlighted that the Central Texas State Veterans Cemetery, both Killeen-based colleges and the Killeen-Fort Hood Regional Airport are all built on land provided by Fort Hood.
Each of these is heavily used by soldiers and families as well as the community, and funds were generated for some by the Killeen Economic Development Corporation.
“This has been a very enlightening session,” Ierardi said to close the event. “Even I ... learned more about the great benefits of serving here at Fort Hood.”
Army representatives will visit 30 installations this month, all of which have more than 5,000 soldiers, and it will be at least May before the Army releases any decisions, according to a spokesperson for Army operations, intelligence and logistics.