On just about any other day, the recent news out of Fort Benning would make for mostly glad tidings.
In a Tuesday Change of Command Ceremony, Col. Andrew Hilmes became the post's new garrison commander. On a larger scale, Wednesday saw the grand opening of Fort Benning's new 19,000-square-foot VA Clinic, which will provide health care access for about 13,000 area veterans, including pharmacy, social work and lab services.
But even that wasn't the week's biggest news concerning Fort Benning , although it was almost certainly the best.
It was overshadowed, unfortunately, by the sobering if not altogether unexpected announcement of deep cuts in the post's Army and civilian personnel.
Never miss a local story.
The proverbial shoe dropped when Sen. Johnny Isakson, R-Ga., announced Wednesday that about 3,400 soldiers at Fort Benning and another 950 at Fort Stewart in Hinesville will be part of the Pentagon's latest round of downsizing. Overall, the Defense Department plan is to reduce the Army by about 40,000 soldiers, to 450,000, over the next two-plus years.
Such a significant reduction in the military force also means, of course, a reduction in civilian support services. And while more specific figures for Fort Benning were not available, USA Today reported Tuesday that the Army's 40-000-troop reduction would result in about 17,000 civilian cuts overall.
Overall, Fort Benning currently has a work force of approximately 41,000 Army and civilian personnel.
Isakson, appropriately, was fighting hard for his state's military installations and for the people and industries whose livelihoods depend on them.
"I am demanding answers from the Department of Defense on how they are justifying these troop cuts in Georgia," the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee chairman said in a statement, " and will continue to fight to see to it that we preserve every soldier in Georgia that we can."
These sequestration cuts are a different animal from the Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) processes that have generally left Fort Benning a net winner. (The Armor School's move here from Fort Knox was one of the most significant gains.)
Sequestration, on the other hand, is closer to an across-the-board drawing down of military strength (and, more to the point, Defense Department spending) from its peak during the height of the Afghanistan and Iraq wars.
Gary Jones, executive vice president of military affairs at the Greater Columbus Chamber of Commerce, said local leaders are urging Washington to "stop sequestration." And while nothing is impossible, that would seem extremely unlikely.
The more prudent course now, it would seem, is for the Chamber and other local business and political leadership to prepare for an influx of people looking for new livelihoods. The next best thing to stopping sequestration, which we almost certainly can't do, is being ready for it, which we can.