Regardless of budget cuts, Benning will always be 'at the heart of the Army,' McMaster says

Whatever the size of budget cuts the military might face in the next federal budget, “Fort Benning is always going to be at the heart of our Army,” post commander Maj. Gen. H.R. McMaster said Friday.

“There is not a threat to Fort Benning’s mission here,” McMaster said. “It’s a question of what reductions might be here because our Army is being reduced in size significantly.”

McMaster was speaking at the close of the 2013 Maneuver Warfighter Conference, a gathering aimed at focusing on the future of the Maneuver Force. He stressed that as the Army shrinks from 565,000-570,000 down to about 490,000, those soldiers will still need to be trained.

“There are some core missions, not matter how big our Army is, that occur here at Fort Benning,” McMaster said. “That’s the training of our infantry, armor and cavalry soldiers. It is the leader development courses that happen here. Our non-commissioned officers are the key leaders in our Army. The strength of our Army relative to other armies is the strength of our noncommissioned officer corps. Those sergeants in armor, cavalry and infantry are trained here.”

The functional training, such as the airborne, ranger, sniper and reconnaissance schools, will also remain, regardless of budget levels, McMaster said.

“All of those functions are critical to our Army, no matter its size, and they will continue at Fort Benning,” he said.

The military has already absorbed $37 billion in sequestration-forced cuts this year and could face $52 billion more in the coming fiscal year, according to earlier reports. That, McMaster said, will require military leaders to “think harder,” to make sure the right priorities are set and to ensure they’re making the most of what resources they have.

“In a democracy, you get the Army that the people are willing to pay for,” McMaster said. “Once we understand what that is and what the constraints are going to be, what the shape of our force, the size of our force is going to be, the money we’re going to have for modernization, research and development, training and so forth, it’s our job as leaders to make the most out of that.”

While the extent to which those resources might dwindle remains an unknown, McMaster said he is confident the army has leadership in place to make it work.

“Our Army operates under the philosophy of mission command,” he said. “We say, trust your supporting commanders to do the right thing. Give them the information and resources they need and they’ll figure it out.”

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