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Coming and going at Carson


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Fort Carson "inactivated" the 2nd Brigade Combat Team of its 4th Infantry Division last week, leaving the post with a net loss of about 2,700 soldiers, according to the post. The cut had been announced last year as part of a sweeping reorganization of the Army in which military leaders hope to eliminate up to 80,000 from their ranks.

Of the 4,200-soldier brigade, 1,500 were assigned to other units at Carson, while the other 2,700 were transferred to other Army installations or separated or retired.

The move, along with the scheduled 2015 transfer of an Apache helicopter unit from Carson to Joint Base Lewis-McChord in Washington, serves as a reminder of the post's economic impact.

Andy Merritt, chief defense industry officer at the Regional Business Alliance, says that Carson, like other posts, faces cuts of up to 16,000 soldiers and civilian personnel in a budget scale-back triggered by the sequestration bill of 2011. That's about half the number who work at Carson.

Merritt put Carson's economic impact to the region at about $2.17 billion annually, meaning if the post takes the full brunt of planned cuts, the local economy could take a $1 billion hit.

"Something that size would absolutely reverberate across the economy," he says, meaning it would be felt by all, including auto dealers, landlords, retail stores and service providers.

However, the Army's build-up of capacity at the post in recent years — such as adding a Combat Aviation Brigade — bodes well for the installation, he says. The Army also is looking to expand use of the Piñon Canon Maneuver Site in southeast Colorado, though that proposal has drawn opposition from residents in that area.

While sequestration was put on pause for fiscal years 2014 and 2015, it comes back in 2016, Merritt says, and if a countermove isn't made, the Army will look at further reductions. That's separate from a round of Base Realignment and Closure that could come in 2019, he says.

"The analysis they're doing now will ultimately be used to feed into a potential BRAC round," Merritt says. "If you have a base hollowed out and then they authorize a BRAC round, you're in a much more vulnerable position."

All of which will be hashed out at a "listening session" to be hosted by Army and Carson officials at 4 p.m., Tuesday, Feb. 3, at the Centennial Hall Auditorium, 200 S. Cascade Ave.

"Community leaders and folks from the state will be making statements in support of Carson," Merritt says.

Opponents of more intensified use of Piñon Canyon also are being encouraged to attend, says local activist Bill Sulzman.


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