By Colin DuRant
In a strategic shift outlined in a press conference at the Pentagon on Jan. 5, Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta said that the United States military will soon be undergoing massive restructuring that will have an important impact on all four branches of service: the Army, Marines, Navy and the Air Force. With Fort Sill being a major Army post and home of both the Field Artillery and Air Defense Artillery schools, major changes in the Defense budget will undoubtedly have an effect on the Lawton/Fort Sill area and, by extension, Cameron University.
Secretary Panetta expounded on the reasons for the budgeting changes.
“First of all, we are at a strategic turning point after a decade of war,” Panetta said. “Second, the Congress of the United States, through the passage of the Budget Control Act, has required that the defense budget be reduced by $487 billion over 10 years.”
On Jan. 27, at a press conference held at the Pentagon, Army Chief of Staff General Raymond Odierno spoke about the budgets cuts and the affect they would have on the Army
“The time is strategically right to reduce the Army’s force structure,” he said.
He went on to specifically state that the numbers would be drawn-down from 570,000 personnel to 490,000.
This reduction in troop strength parallels similar restructuring in the military that took places following both World War II and the Cold War. Despite the lower numbers, General Odierno insisted that the Army’s strategic capabilities would not be reduced and the mission capabilities would remain the same.
Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Martin Dempsey expounded on this point.
“Capability is more important than size,” he said. “This budget does not lead to a military in decline.”
The changes reflect large scale budget cuts within the Defense Department as the current administration attempts to make cutbacks in overall government spending to reduce the federal deficit. In light of the focus on budget, General Odierno highlighted a desire to find efficiencies and methods of reducing the cost of doing business.
One method General Odierno indicated that he intended to follow was making reductions in the growth rate of military compensation and other personnel-related cost and benefits. General Odierno also stated a desire to reduce energy requirements for Army operations.
In a question and answer session following his statement, General Odierno answered an inquiry about Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) as a function of the Army changes. BRAC shifts in the military brought the United States Army Air Defense Artillery School to Fort Sill in 2005, creating the Fires Center of Excellence.
In terms of future closures or shifts, General Odierno stated that most imminent BRAC shifts would likely affect overseas bases. Most changes in domestic bases would instead consist mostly of reductions.
The defense budget cuts and restructuring are not without critics. Victor Davis Hanson, the Martin and Illie Anderson Senior Fellow in Residence at the Hoover Institution at Stanford University, called out against the plan.
“There is plenty of fat in a Pentagon budget that grew after 9/11,” he said, “but such slashing goes way too far.”
According to the Fort Sill Public Affairs Office, Army officials have begun to establish plans for the budget cuts, but specific details have yet to be disseminated to lower command structures.
“As of this time, Fort Sill has not received any specific guidance but stands ready to support the Department of Defense and the Department of the Army’s budget efforts,” the office said.