Area Residents and Georgia Officials React to Possible Military Base Closures

If you live in metro Atlanta, you may not understand the impact the military has in Georgia, especially south of the Fall Line. How big an impact? In Liberty County, home of Fort Stewart, it’s about $5.6 billion, and that’s only the contribution to the economy. There are also the soldiers and civilians stationed at the base who become involved in the local community.

That’s why several hundred of them gathered last week to learn more about possible plans to reduce the number of forces stationed at Fort Stewart. The Savannah Morning News reports that due to possible cuts imposed by the sequestration mandated in the Budget Control Act, some 70% of the forces stationed at the base could be eliminated over the next six years.

A possible reduction of around 30,000 troops prompted Army representatives to tour the ten military installations that could be impacted by the reductions. Area residents were eager to voice their support for the troops and the base.

“The ability to train, you guys know better than I do, you have that here; wellbeing, we’ve got that,” said Richmond Hill City Councilman Johnny Murphy. “I think another opportunity that you need to consider is this community and the chance to retire here.

“We’re probably easily one of the preferred communities in the Army. You guys should be interested in bringing more folks here.”

Coastal Georgia, said 10-year Army veteran June Jones, relies on the soldiers stationed in the area for income for small businesses to mentoring children.

“Our community is different from any other community,” she said. “We help each other; we are one family. We are Army strong. Help us stay together.

“There are so many things you help us with, and we in turn help you — we pray for you, we honor you, we support you and we encourage you day in and day out.”

Army officials promised to take the citizens’ concerns back to Washington for consideration. A decision on potential closings may be made sometime in 2015.

Because of the Peach State’s large number of military installations, Georgia officials have rolled out employment-related programs specifically targeted at veterans. In a story by Walter Jones in the Athens Banner Herald, Labor Commissioner Mark Butler praised the skills veterans have that are in demand by employers.

Labor Commissioner Mark Butler likes to quote a colonel who told him, “The military is a soft-skills factory. If you show up on time in the military, you’re late.”

Butler said when he meets with executives considering locating company operations in Georgia, they always ask about workforce quality, which includes more than just education and demographics, but also soft skills.

“We actively sell our veterans,” he said. “That’s a big part of our sales pitch.”

The University system of Georgia is working to offer new training programs, including a Liberty Center in Hinesville that is part of Armstrong State University. Its proximity to Fort Stewart makes it easy for soldiers and veterans to attend.

Ironically, the state’s efforts to provide training programs for soldiers and veterans may mean possible military reductions at Fort Stewart could be mitigated. Jones’s story has Georgia Economic Development Commissioner Chris Carr saying that “there’s no foolproof way to keep a local installation off the list, but one of the best forms of closure insurance is to demonstrate appreciation for the military.”

8 comments

  1. androidguybill says:

    Yeah, base closures and defense cutbacks in general are a major reason why Georgia has the nation’s highest unemployment rate. Not only has it decimated the economy in south Georgia (or actually every area outside metro Atlanta) where the education system stinks (not just K-12 but their “universities” are so in name only with very little research or professional programs to speak of) but even in a place like Cobb County, which had a 7.4% unemployment rate (almost unthinkable for a suburb) in August thanks in large part to the defense cutbacks.

    More of this is coming down the line, and if Georgia doesn’t make significant, concrete efforts to improve both its infrastructure and education system, future defense cuts will continue to hammer the state’s economy, as well as will globalization. SHEP and the gas tax increase are positive steps for infrastructure, so long as Georgia resists the temptation to bungle them (and whether suburbanites and conservatives choose to agree or not, so are the Beltline, streetcar and MARTA expansion into Clayton, which have attracted over $1 billion in private and federal investment, and if the deal to replace the Braves with a second GSU campus, that investment will be about $1.5 billion). But we still continue to think that charter schools and Common Core (whether opposing it or supporting it) will be enough to address issues with what has long been some of the worst-performing schools in the country. And even that is part of the problem: everyone – or at least everyone who is on one particular side of the political aisle – believes that the worst Georgia schools are in APS, DeKalb and Clayton. They aren’t, and not by a long shot. A kid in APS, DeKalb or Clayton has a much higher chance of attending UGA or Georgia Tech (for example) than a kid in nearly all the red, green and pink counties in this map (and in a great many of the white ones for that matter):

    http://patch.com/georgia/acworth/kennesaw-cobb-metro-atlanta-unemployment-rates-fall-september-0

    But addressing this problem requires convincing the electorate that Georgia has problems that are much bigger and deeper than who Atlanta chooses to elect as its mayor (especially considering that Atlanta’s next mayor very well be the person who nearly won it last time … Mary Norwood).

  2. gcp says:

    Of course my usual comment is that the primary purpose of the military is to defend this country; not to provide jobs in the civilian community. Even before sequestration the military was in the process of downsizing. As for the sequestration cuts there will be a lot of screaming and hysteria but congress likely won’t make all the cuts, so let’s not get too excited here.

  3. Will Durant says:

    Pull the troops out of Japan and Germany first. WWII has been over for some time now.

    Do we still need 25K+ troops serving as a tripwire for South Korea?

    The military should be drawn down by reduction in multimillion dollar gadgets. Keeping strong, well-trained personnel is necessary and should be maintained. 2 billion dollar bombers are not necessary. The people pumping the money into Washington are taking the opposite tack.

    • seenbetrdayz says:

      Yep. Those countries should be strong enough to maintain their own bases by now, and if any situation arises where we need a base, I’m sure they could temporarily loan us the use of one or two, particularly if their own security depended on it.

  4. I’m not a big fan of parasitic municipalities with predatory businesses that thrive around military installations. These towns tend to have 2 sets of retail pricing: one for the locals and one for the payday military types who have no other way to shop for essentials. High interest used car and title loans, Dollar Stores, cheap strip clubs and honky-tonks, and predatory cops with DUI roadblocks near the military instillation are not a good base for a town to use as their primary economic resource.

    Pretty sure this has not changed since I was in the service. Some towns just lose their use, and people move on. The map is littered with such areas in GA. Such is the natural life of society, folks.

    Why fight nature?

  5. Ellynn says:

    Fort Stewart is not going to fully close. Be redused in the size of troops and services. yes. DoD has already moved some deparments to Ft Benning and Ft. Bragg. But Fort Stewart is the largest base for equipment staging on the east coast, and it’s 30 miles from the largest USNS port for deployment and the largest army air field. Logictically, it is a nice piece of dirt for the Army to have, they just don’t need a full combat division their to be of importance.

Comments are closed.