Harsh cuts met with optimistic outlooks

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Editorial: May 10, 2013

ISSUE: Reacting to military’s drawdown plans
OUR VIEW: Fort Knox is positioned to benefit

Fort Knox’s commanding general recently conducted a listening session and the facts he provided held the attention of community, civic and business leaders.

Maj. Gen. Jefforey Smith described the U.S. Army’s decision to reduce by 80,000 soldiers. Smith anticipates a future reduction of as many as eight brigade combat teams and realignment to “meet the requirements of the nation’s defense strategy in a fiscally constrained environment.”

Remember these cuts are not part of any sequestration plans and go beyond any new base realignment recommendations President Barack Obama has requested.

With a drawdown of forces tied to the planned end of American military involvement in Afghanistan and Iraq, the reductions make sense. The drawdown will help satisfy a roughly $487 million Department of Defense cut, which Smith said includes about $170 billion in Army funding cuts.

Those are major numbers and will have major impacts.

But the major point for Fort Knox, for the surrounding civilian community and for all of Kentucky is one of optimism.

Meeting this week with The News-Enterprise editorial board, Smith described dealing “very deliberately” with matters impacting vital post operations and services that soldiers and their families rely upon in their daily life.

Decisions as seemingly routine as cutting grass or setting thermostats have been reviewed and altered. Operational tasks, including trimming overnight and weekend shifts at Godman Army Airfield, have helped redirect money toward training ranges.

Fort Knox has tightened up and found ways to “be more efficient and to be more effective,” Smith said.

While any change involving millions or billions will have far-reaching impact, a key point for Smith and others is that Fort Knox is positioned well to grow. Smith said that post leadership has made Pentagon decision-makers aware of available barracks, underutilized ranges and all available assets that could facility belt-tightening done elsewhere.

“We had a really good opportunity to provide our input to the Army,” Smith said during Wednesday’s luncheon meeting at Cadet Command headquarters.

Many others share his evaluation. Consider these insights offered at the listening session.

  • Retired Maj. Gen. Bill Barron, executive director of the CORE committee, which promotes the growth of Fort Knox, noted the post has spent millions to upgrade headquarters, barracks and company operations for its units, including $250 million for the 3rd Infantry Brigade Combat Team and $41 million for the 19th Engineers Battalion. Fort Knox also has room to grow with 5,500 acres ready for development.
  • Retired Col. David Thompson, executive director and chairman of the Kentucky Commission on Military Affairs, said Kentucky believes in Fort Knox. The state invested a quarter billion dollars in area transportation and infrastructure improvements because it believes in Fort Knox. He said Knox’s capacity means it is perfectly situated to retain the 3rd Infantry Brigade Combat team and gain another brigade combat team.
  •  Radcliff Mayor J.J. Duvall said the community and local developers are ready to do whatever is required to ensure Fort Knox remains stable in the midst of a force reduction.

“I guarantee this community, and this state, will step up and say ‘bring it here. We can handle it,’” he said.

Our community can have confidence that these individuals and countless others are working to ensure that the Pentagon and other Army planners recognize the clear facts regarding Fort Knox’s readiness, the community’s support of its mission and the obvious value of locating key resources here.

It’s important now for the community to remain confident and diligent in its efforts. The optimism expressed at the post listening session is justified. Even in a period of federal belt-tightening measures, this community is positioned to grow with Fort Knox.

This editorial represents a consensus of The News-Enterprise's editorial board.