Colorado Springs News, Sports & Business

Gazette Premium Content Lamborn: Army mum on whether Fort Carson will grow or shrink

By Tom Roeder Updated: June 6, 2013 at 11:07 am

With a decision to significantly cut or marginally increase troop strength at Fort Carson expected by the end of the month, the Army is keeping quiet about its plans, Colorado Springs Republican Congressman Doug Lamborn said Wednesday.

The Army announced this year that it was studying changes at Fort Carson that could increase its ranks by 3,000 soldiers or cut them by 8,000 by 2020.

Lamborn, who serves on the House Armed Services Committee, said the Pentagon hasn't briefed him on the decision-making process and he hasn't seen signs of the Army's final plan or been given a date for the decision.

Lamborn didn't sound hopeful for gains Wednesday in a phone interview during a break from a committee hearing on the Pentagon budget.

"We're trying to make our case that Fort Carson is a great place to station people," Lamborn said. "So if there is movement around, even with reductions, we may be able to not see a significant loss."

The Defense Department is facing $1 trillion in cuts over the next decade - carving about $100 billion per year from a budget that has topped $700 billion in recent years. As part of those cuts, the Army is looking to shrink by 80,000 soldiers. That means restructuring the Army by eliminating up to eight combat brigades.

The Army is studying pulling a brigade from Fort Carson and slashing support troops. In another scenario, the Army would add nearly a brigade of troops to the post, while imposing cuts at other locations.

Ed Anderson, a retired Army three-star general who heads the National Homeland Defense Foundation in Colorado Springs, said that even if Fort Carson escapes severe cuts this time, the future remains uncertain as more cuts loom.

"I would be very careful to not get complacent," he said.

As the Army considers cutting Fort Carson - which pumps an estimated $2.2 billion into the local economy - military and congressional leaders are still spending money on growth at the post.

The post is in the midst of adding a 2,700-soldier combat aviation brigade, and the Army plans to spend more than $240 million - about a quarter of its worldwide construction budget in 2014 - on housing the brigade and its 113 helicopters by 2015.

The House approved that money and $24 million more for construction on support facilities for the post's 10th Special Forces Group this week. It's awaiting Senate consideration.

"It's a huge win for Colorado Springs," Lamborn said.

The Army this week also awarded a $93 million contract to build barracks for the aviation brigade to house 1,000 soldiers near Butts Army Airfield on the south side of Fort Carson. The future Fort Carson spending, and the entire 2014 Defense Department budget, could fall victim to partisan gridlock on Capitol Hill, Lamborn said. Congress, where Republicans rule the House and Democrats own the Senate, has yet to reach agreement on increasing the federal debt, and major spending bills are in limbo.

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