National Military Updates and Impact on Georgia’s Military Installations

State Representative Dave Belton

Tuesday, February 20th, 2018

Several events happened last week in terms of our military that will greatly affect the economic health of Georgia. As such, I am grateful that Georgia House Speaker David Ralston (R-Blue Ridge) had the vision to create the House Military Affairs Working Group that I chair to help keep Georgia up to speed with national military changes. I am pleased to report that the bipartisan work our group has done over the past few years – including talking directly to Georgia’s congressional delegation and the Pentagon – has yielded positive results.

For the first time in decades, Congress settled on a 2-year continuing resolution that provides the military $1.4 trillion in funding over the next two years. The Pentagon followed a few days later with another big announcement: they would suspend their request for a Base Realignment and Closure for 2019. This outcome was exactly what our group was seeking and is good news for Georgia, which enjoys the fifth largest military population in America with an economic impact of $25 billion every year.

Why is this so significant? Because several years ago Congress slashed the military budget by $1 trillion with the Budget Control Act and Sequestration. Worse, Congress stymied military planners with decades of month-to-month budget crises. It is hard to believe, but Washington has not been able to pass budgets without resorting to short-term CRs except for four times since 1977, and only once since 1988. This constant “kicking of the can” from one budgetary cliff-hanger to another crippled our modern military, especially in terms of technology as generals and admirals were unable to procure new weapon systems. Worse still, the overall gross domestic product that we spent on the military sank to a 100-year low, half as small as in the Reagan administration.

“No enemy has done more to harm readiness than sequestration,” said U.S. Department of Defense Secretary James Mattis.

The result? Our military is the smallest America has had in 75 years, operating with the oldest equipment it has fielded in decades. Readiness, or the ability to deploy, plummeted to record lows as the military lacked the funding to equip and train its warriors to combat standards. But the most frightening result of all is that our near-peer competitors, such as Russia and China, now enjoy technology almost as good as ours for the first time since World War II. Parity has emboldened these aggressive rivals, making the world a more tenuous and dangerous place. 

The new budget that Congress approved will see a manpower increase by nearly 26,000 warriors out of about 1.3 million, 10 new ships from 277 to 287 and three new combat squadrons from 55 to 58. Closer to home, all three Army installations in Georgia, Fort Gordon, Fort Benning and Fort Stewart, will reportedly see troop increases; the A-10 Thunderbolt II airplanes, commonly referred to as the “Warthog,” at Moody Air Force Base will be funded; and Naval Submarine Base Kings Bay will be home to the new Columbia-class ballistic missile submarine. These are big wins for Georgia.

On the other hand, though the military will not attempt a formal BRAC, they are shuffling missions, personnel and money from some bases and giving them to others. To that point, the Pentagon announced that it will cut the E-8 Joint Surveillance Target Attack Radar Systems, code named “JSTARS,” mission out of Robins Air Force Base with a loss of 1,500 airmen. Georgia’s congressional delegation has raised objections and is fighting hard to stop this move, but it is another example how important it is for Georgia to remain vigilant about its military.

American warfighters are the best in the world, but they are vastly fewer in number and enjoy far fewer technological advantages than they did just a decade earlier. It is vital to the peace and stability of the free world that America does not neglect its military.