Third Brigade: 30 more days to comment on possible cuts

The Army has granted a 30-day extension for comments assessing possible cuts at Fort Benning and 20 other installations as part of the 2020 Force Structure Realignment.

The deadline for public comments to the Army’s Programmatic Environmental Assessment has been moved from Tuesday to March 21, said Barry Napp, a public affairs spokesman for the Environmental Command at Fort Sam Houston, Texas. The original comment period was set after the assessment was released Jan. 18, outlining the environmental and socio-economic impacts of cutting the 3rd Armored Brigade Combat Team at Kelley Hill or keeping the brigade on post.

Napp said the Army received several requests from the public and states for an extension. Of all the comments received from communities, Napp said Fort Benning is leading with 134 comments followed by Fort Carson, Colo., with 75.

“It’s safe to say Benning has a pretty good response and is leading installations for the Programmatic Environmental Assessment,” Napp said.

By 2020, the Army plans to reduce its force from 562,000 to 490,000 soldiers by deactivating eight brigades. Two units would be cut from Europe and the other six would be from U.S. installations. The 3rd Brigade is attached to the 3rd Infantry Division at Fort Stewart but is based on post.

Losing the brigade at Fort Benning could impact soldiers and civilian jobs, including 3,900 soldiers and 3,200 civilians. The impact jumps to 17,800 when 3,950 spouses and 6,791 dependent children are added to the group.

The other installations considered for reduction include: Fort Bliss, Texas; Fort Bragg, N.C.; Fort Campbell, Ky; Fort Drum, N.Y.; Fort Gordon, Ga.; Fort Hood, Texas; Fort Irwin, Calif.; Joint Base Elemendorf-Richardson, Alaska,; Joint Bast Langley-Eustis, Va.; Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash; Fort Knox, Ky.; Fort Lee, Va.; Fort Leonard Wood, Mo; Fort Polk, La., Fort Riley, Kan.; Fort Sill, Okla.; Fort Stewart, Ga.; the U.S. Army Garrison-Hawaii and U.S. Army Garrison at Fort Wainwright, Alaska.

Shortly after the assessment was released, U.S. Rep. Sanford Bishop Jr., D-Albany, called on residents to voice their opinions about the possible impact of losing the 3rd Brigade. Greater Columbus Chamber of Commerce made a similar request while the Columbus Council approved a resolution Feb. 5 opposing any move to reduce the 3rd Armored Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division at Fort Benning.

Having another month gives the Chamber of Commerce time to renew its efforts about the possible loss of 7,100 spaces on post to elected leaders in the state and Washington, D.C., said Gary Jones, the executive vice president of Economic Development & Military Affairs at the Chamber of Commerce.

Jones said the total growth at Fort Benning totals $3.6 billion when you include Base Realignment and Closure process to move the Armor School from Fort Knox, Ky., on post and other improvements, including construction of a new Martin Army Community Hospital.

“We were told to build and build and we did,” Jones said.