• July 23, 2014

How will cuts to military affect local economy?

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Posted: Wednesday, February 27, 2013 4:30 am

With massive military budget cuts appearing imminent, it’s going to an interesting year for Fort Hood units.

Units all over post have already begun to cut back on field training. Motor pools sit silent and commanders are likely scratching their heads on how to proceed without the necessary funds to pay for fuel, ammo and other costs associated with high-speed, low-drag Army training.

The main cause of all these cuts is sequestration — a word that has been repeated a lot in recent weeks. For the military, sequestration means a $46 billion cut from last year’s budget.

It’s not just soldier training that will be impacted, but the many military civilian jobs at installations all over the world, including thousands of such jobs at Fort Hood.

Fort Hood held town hall meetings earlier this month for roughly 3,200 employees who will likely be affected if the cuts go though — and they likely will unless Congress takes action this week (an almost laughable notion at this point.)

Officials say there is a hiring freeze already in place and furloughs, forcing employees to work fewer hours, could be implemented.

That’s not good news for workers who need a full-time job to support their families, many of whom live in Killeen, Copperas Cove, Harker Heights and elsewhere in the area.

I was watching the Pentagon Channel the other day, and Gen. Ray Odierno, the Army’s chief of staff, was describing how the cuts will hamper training. The missions in Afghanistan and Korea will retain 100 percent funding, and units who deploy to those areas — especially Afghanistan — will still receive proper, in-depth training. Fort Hood units preparing to go to Afghanistan will still train like similar units in the past, going to training centers, field training and all that jazz.

For units that are not deploying anytime soon, however, expensive field training will come to a virtual halt. Odierno said large-scale brigade, battalion and even company training exercises won’t be funded as they have been in the past; training will have to be done at the platoon and squad levels. In all, training could be cut for about 80 percent of ground forces, the general said.

Perhaps “cut” isn’t the best word, because Army leaders can always come up with some type of training on a day-to-day basis. As I picture it, there will be a lot of preventative maintenance going on in motor pools, as well as classroom sessions on tactics and sandbox-type training with models and the like. That’s all well and good, but as we all know it’s no substitute for the dirty, hot, gas-guzzling, live-fire training exercises that get soldiers really prepared for battle.

It’ll be interesting, perhaps a little worrisome, to see just how the cuts will impact the Killeen-Fort Hood area.

First off, for the families of military contractors, things will most likely get tough. Those families will have to cut back on spending, and perhaps even look for other employment.

On the flip side, however, with deployments already at a low point in the past 10 years, and with fewer troops likely to be out in the field this year, that could be somewhat helpful to the economy. Soldiers will be able to come into town more often and spend money.

Not that this is any consolation for the families that will be impacted by less pay.

All that said, however, things have a way of working out.

Hopefully, we all make it through without too many wounds.

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