5th BCT not coming to Carson

June 2, 2009

The Army made formal a Defense Department decision Tuesday that cost Fort Carson 3,500 soldiers.

A cut in the number of Army brigades announced by Defense Secretary Robert Gates in April drove the move, but the Army for weeks had avoided specifics. Now it's official: The 5th Brigade Combat Team, expected to be established at Fort Carson by 2013, won't happen.

While the announcement from the Pentagon came hours after Gov. Bill Ritter signed a bill thwarting the Army's plan to acquire a lease on 100,000 acres east of Trinidad, a spokesman for the service said the decision to halt Fort Carson's growth at 26,000 soldiers isn't tied to the battle over growth of the Piñon Canyon Maneuver Site.

"It wasn't targeted at any one installation," said Lt. Col. Lee Packnett.
Fort Stewart, Ga., and Fort Bliss, Texas, also lost out on Army brigades in the new plan.

The change stops the Army's growth at 45 brigades. The move could save the Army more than $300 million in construction alone at Fort Carson.

Still, Fort Carson is gaining the 4th Infantry Division's headquarters, and its 1st Brigade Combat Team is adding 6,500 soldiers to the post in the next three months.

Politicians who have been pushing the Piñon Canyon expansion said Tuesday brought a double-shot of bad news that curbed Fort Carson growth immediately and put future growth in jeopardy.

"My bigger concern is that this does not help us in the future," said U.S. Rep. Doug Lamborn, a Republican from Colorado Springs who has been the most vocal proponent of the training land deal.

Under the measure signed by Ritter, the state is forbidden to sell or lease state lands to expand the training area. Areas surrounding the training area are dotted with state lands, and the sponsors of the measure hope it will make expansion less attractive to the Army.

The bill was supported by private landowners in the area, who don't want to sell to the Army or be forced off in eminent domain proceedings, as happened when the training area was first established in the 1970s. They dismiss Army promises to work only with willing sellers and avoid eminent domain condemnations.

Lamborn said the law tells the Army to take its growth plans elsewhere, hurting the Colorado economy.

The Army's decision to not put a fifth combat brigade at Fort Carson means 3,500 soldiers and an estimated 5,200 family members won't move to Colorado Springs.

Fort Carson's commander, Maj. Gen. Mark Graham, said while the people won't be coming, the post still might get a big chunk of federal construction money
to replace older facilities.

Graham also said the Army's decision doesn't end its plan to add to its 235,000-acre training reservation.

"The Army still needs more land for training," he said.


Gazette writer Dean Toda contributed to this report.



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