Colorado Springs News, Sports & Business

Gazette Premium Content Report: Carson could lose 8,000 or add 3,000 by 2020

JAKOB RODGERS Updated: January 24, 2013 at 12:00 am

Fort Carson could lose 8,000 military and civilian jobs as part of an effort to cut troop levels, according to an Army study released Thursday.

But the post could also gain more than 3,000 military and civilian jobs under a different scenario outlined in the same report.

The competing views released by the Army on Thursday offer the first glimpse of the Army’s plans to cut its ranks by 15 percent over the next seven years — coming more than a year after the last soldiers pulled out of Iraq and before thousands of troops prepare to leave Afghanistan.

Twenty-one posts across the nation could lose troops while the Army trims 72,000 soldiers from its ranks, the study said. Twelve posts could gain soldiers if the Army reorganizes its brigades.

Fort Carson fit into both categories.

The two options for the Colorado Springs post represent the best and worst case scenarios, said Cathy Kropp, an Army Environmental Command spokeswoman. No recommendations were made, and a final decision likely won’t come this year, she said.

Rep. Doug Lamborn, R-Colo. and Sen. Mark Udall, D-Colo., vowed as members of the House and Senate armed services committees to fight for the post.

Ed Anderson, a retired Army lieutenant general who now oversees the Colorado National Defense Support Council, struck a cautious tone. The council is a statewide coalition aimed at keeping and attracting military programs to Colorado.

“I think Fort Carson is pretty safe but there’s a tendency to be a little bit conservative and cautious, because we don’t know the rules quite yet,” said Anderson, former deputy commander of the North American Aerospace Defense Command.

Fort Carson would lose the 8,000 jobs under a scenario that would shave at least eight brigade combat teams from the current Army roster of 45.

A brigade is generally composed of at least 3,450 troops organized into a handful of battalions.

If Fort Carson loses the 8,000 jobs, the region could see another 3,000 people put out of work with a decline in military contractors and jobs created by soldiers spending money in the area, the report said.

Models run by the Army estimated sales losses across El Paso, Pueblo and Fremont counties at $366 million to $555 million — a drop of up to 2.16 percent.

Many local businesses will be pulling for the Army’s second option at Fort Carson.

That scenario would cut more than eight brigade combat teams, leaving the Army to beef up its remaining brigades and, in the process, add 3,000 military and civilian jobs to Fort Carson.

That addition would be on top of the 2,700 troops scheduled to arrive as part of the post’s new combat aviation brigade, Kropp said. The 113-helicopter unit is being assembled near Butts Army Airfield.

The scenario would bring more than 1,000 new contracting and off-post jobs, while sales volumes would increase $137 million to $208 million across the region, the report said.

Fort Carson has already experienced wild growth in the last decade — doubling in size to nearly 26,000 troops.

In the process, state, local and federal governments poured money into expanding South Academy Boulevard, State Highway 115 and State Highway 16 — three roadways bordering and entering the post.

Fort Carson’s location — along the Rocky Mountains, at 6,000 feet and in a semi-arid climate — might provide its best shot at retaining troops, said Tom Binnings, an economist with Summit Economics.

Another amenity: Soldiers at the post can also easily access the 235,000-acre Pinon Canyon Maneuver Site northeast of Trinidad.

Anderson said the defense council will meet in the coming weeks to formulate a plan on how best to protect Fort Carson. Any losses could be offset by the incoming aviation brigade, Andy Merritt, military liaison for the Colorado Springs Regional Business Alliance, told the Associated Press.

Either way, community support for Fort Carson will be key as the Army mulls its options, he said.

“When you have kind of a tie-breaking decision (on which community should lose a brigade), if one is strongly supportive and has demonstrated that over time to the military, that’s going to weigh into it,” he told the Associated Press.

Contact Jakob Rodgers: 476-1654

Twitter @jakobrodgers

Facebook Jakob Rodgers

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