by Pam Zubeck
UPDATE: Rep. Doug Lamborn, asked about the combat aviation brigade after an Air Force Academy Board of Visitors meeting Friday afternoon, gave this response to concerns about whether military budget cuts might affect the decision:
"My sense is that the Army is committed and will make it work, even if other things have to be cut."
Lamborn added that it might be a difficult task, but he hoped to have the support of Colorado's two senators, Michael Bennet and Mark Udall, "to help (the brigade) survive the budget process." But Lamborn feels it could be an effective alliance, with Lamborn in the House's majority party and the Democratic senators on the Senate majority side.
(Original post, 3:06 p.m. Friday)
U.S. Rep. Doug Lamborn, R-Colorado Springs, issued a news release Friday saying he'd received a preliminary report from the Army that Fort Carson is the preferred location for a new combat aviation brigade.
According to his release, the Army expects to release a final recommendation in 30 days. If the Army moves forward with this recommendation, the 2,700 soldiers and their families are expected to begin transitioning to the Mountain Post in 2013. In preparation for the new brigade, the Army is expected to request $224 million in Fiscal Year 2012 for five new construction projects to support the aviation mission.
“I recognized the need for this brigade from my earliest days in Congress and have been advocating for it for years," Lamborn says in the release. "This is an exciting development for Fort Carson, Colorado Springs, and our larger national defense efforts. This move would allow our ground troops to do more joint exercises with the helicopters, thus more closely simulating actual combat situations. As we have learned from Afghanistan and Iraq, training must take place in an environment that closely reflects conditions in theater. This aviation brigade would help support the long term viability of Fort Carson and would significantly enhance its war fighter capability.”
Bill Sulzman, local activist who has opposed the aviation brigade, said he was "disappointed, not totally surprised" but added, he's "not giving up."
"I don't think it's a done deal until it's paid for," he said. "They don't have a record of decision on the EIS (environmental impact statement). This is based on last year's military budget."
Sulzman noted Secretary of Defense Robert Gates had revealed plans to slash the Pentagon's budget, and the brigade could be a casualty.
"The politicians see it as a jobs program," Sulzman says. "We will see if they (Army) modify their landing sites in response to the considerable input they got about interference with use of the forests."
Adding the brigade would bring up to 120 helicopters here for training.