Proposed Military Cuts Could Impact QCA - News and Weather For The Quad Cities -

Proposed Military Cuts Could Impact QCA

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A plan presented on Monday by US Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel, with the blessing of President Obama, calls for shrinking the size of the force and its spending.

If approved by Congress, Hagel's plan would slash the number of military members to pre-World War II levels and close military bases.

Some officials say the changes are necessary for cost-savings and to re-shape security priorities as the war in Afghanistan winds down.

The objective is to maintain force readiness for whatever security threats the US may face in the future while using resources more wisely.

But, the proposed cuts could hit close to home.

Hundreds of thousands of jobs are at stake nationwide under Hagel's proposal.

In the Army alone, Hagel's plan would reduce the number of active-duty soldiers from about 522,000 now down to between 440,000 and 450,000.

Those cuts could include any or all of the approximately 900 soldiers assigned to the Rock Island Arsenal.

And, another 5,000 or so defense civilians and private contractors would be out of job if the Arsenal were to close under a worst case scenario.

That would obviously be a massive blow to our entire QCA economy if Congress gave that cut the green light.

"We're hopeful that there's not a lot of appetite for that right now," said Tara Barney, President and CEO of the Quad Cities Chamber of Commerce.

Barney says the Chamber of Commerce and its public sector partners are doing everything they can to protect the Arsenal from falling victim to the next round of base closures called for by Hagel's plan.

"We're actively working with the Army Sustainment command to make sure that we're finding ways to be supportive of them so Rock Island Arsenal continues to be one of the assets in the organic industrial base for the Army," she explained.

It's a vision that's shared by at least some of our local reps on Capitol Hill:

"We want to make sure the Arsenal is there as needed. That means making certain that in peacetime as well as war time, we have the skilled technicians ready to perform," said Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL).

"We can save the federal government money. The Arsenal is going to do work that's going to create quality products at a reasonable cost and taxpayers will be the winner," he added.

Still, some of the cuts included in the Defense budget proposal have some military leaders on the state level issuing warnings about force readiness:

"It will reduce our capability to support the citizens of this state," said Brig. Gen. Richard J. Hayes, Jr., Illinois National Guard Assistant Adjutant General-Army

As things stand now, the Illinois Air National Guard and the Illinois Army National Guard would lose about 800 part time and a 150 full time soldiers under the proposed cuts. And leaders say that is concerning.

"Anytime you cut a capability, you lose your ability to respond effectively and efficiently," Brig. Gen. Hayes said.

Officials with the Iowa National Guard seem more optimistic:

"We fortunately have a number of options to cover whatever the gaps might be created by those cuts," said Col. Greg Hapgood, Director of Public Affairs for the Iowa National Guard.

Col. Hapgood says the Iowa National Guard could see a reduction amounting to anywhere between zero and ten percent of its total force. The high end of that range would mean up to around 700 job cuts.

"It's a fine balance between cutting enough but not cutting too much," Col. Hapgood said.

And, while Iowa and Illinois National Guard officials say they're confident their troops would still be ready if called upon for combat missions -- as they have done for more than a decade in Afghanistan -- substantial cuts are not ideal.

"I think the force structure we have here in the state today provides our ability to do both missions, both our federal and state mission. And I would think that it would be a detriment to the citizens of this state if we were to see a substantial cut," warned Brig. Gen. Hayes.

"We're hopeful that the right balance will be found and good decisions will be made about what 'right' looks like," Col. Hapgood said.

"We have an excellent state of readiness and we think that's a good place for us to be today, but, if the civilian and military leadership have other thoughts, we're going to do whatever we're directed to do," he said.

Until then, National Guard leaders say they're looking at their forces and working to come up with plans to do more with less if they need to.

It's still early in the process, and a lot of the details could change by the time Congress is finished with the plan.

Cuts like these are not a new idea. After every major American war, the military has reduced the number of troops to a more appropriate "peacetime level".

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