Kentucky federal delgation responds to Army troop reductions

07/09/2015 09:20 PM

The U.S. Army’s plans to reduce troop levels by 40,000 service members in the next two-years may not impact Kentucky, but the commonwealth’s federal delegation is still expressing concerns over what the draw back will do to American military might.

As Army bases around the nation announce the cuts Fort Knox will actually gain 67 troops in the announced plans, while Fort Campbell is expecting to cut 350 troops by 2017.

There will also be a reduction of 17,000 civilian military employees across the nation but the total number of those cut from Kentucky will not be known until September or October.

A number of Kentucky’s federal delegates voiced their frustration and concerns over the cuts, while simultaneously expressing jubilation over the minimal impact that cuts have in the commonwealth.

U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Kentucky, emphasized Thursday the critical role service members and Army civilians at Fort Campbell and Fort Knox are to the security of the nation.

“While Kentucky’s Army installations will not face the substantial reductions announced today impacting facilities in several other states, I remain deeply concerned that the Obama administration’s far-reaching cuts to our armed forces are dangerous to our country’s national security, particularly in light of significant conflict across the globe,” McConnell said in a statement.

During the past year McConnell and U.S. Sen. Rand Paul, R-Kentucky, have sent two letters to the current and former U.S. Secretary of Defense over the proposed troop cuts making a case for Kentucky’s Army installations.

“Kentucky has absorbed a disproportionate amount of troop cuts in the past and, while I am disappointed to see any more from Fort Campbell, it is reassuring to know the Army recognizes the value of our bases and backed away from its earlier plans for devastating new cuts,” Paul said in a statement.

Kentucky first district Congressman U.S. Rep. Ed Whitfield, R-Hopkinsville, whose district encompasses the Fort Campbell military base said he was “pleased” that the base will not face major restructuring or troop cutbacks.

“The Army’s decision to spare Fort Campbell is a testament to the value it places on the strategic importance the forces stationed there including, the 101st Airborne Division, the 160th SOAR, and the 5th Special Forces Group,” Whitfield said. “However, I am extremely disappointed in the Department of Defense’s decision, under President Obama’s leadership, to move forward with these drastic cuts elsewhere in our military.”

“I will continue to adamantly oppose any efforts to further reduce troops and services and will continue to fight for the men, women, and families stationed at Fort Campbell, and the communities that support them.”

Whitefield, like McConnell and 2nd District U.S. Rep. Brett Guthrie, R-Bowling Green, voiced their larger concerns of drawing down troops as President Obama told reporters at the Pentagon this week the war against the Islamic State “is a generational struggle.”

“The president’s comment comes mere weeks after admitting that he doesn’t have a complete strategy for defeating this enemy,” Guthrie said. “We need to ensure we maintain the best military in the world and that our servicemen and women are well-trained and equipped – goals that will be difficult to achieve if the president plans to cut tens of thousands of the men and women in uniform who stand ready to respond to the call of duty, along with thousands of civilian staff who support our active duty soldiers.”

Guthrie’s district encompasses the Fort Knox military base which escaped the troop cuts other bases are facing.

“The tremendous community support and the strong leadership at Fort Knox have ensured that this award-winning and unique institution remains central to the Army’s mission,” he said. “I will continue to work with officials at Fort Knox, the surrounding community, and at the Pentagon to maintain the facility’s critical role in training and serving our nation’s soldiers, and I am firmly committed to providing full funding for our nation’s military to ensure a strong defense.”

Kentucky’s lone Democratic delegate shared in the satisfaction that troops would not be cut at Fort Knox, but he did warn about coming cuts to Amry civilian employment.

“We won’t know what effects these Army-wide reductions may have on civilian employment at the base until September or October, but the concern doesn’t end there,” Yarmuth said. “If Congress doesn’t stop the scheduled sequestration budget cuts from being implemented over the next several years, we should brace ourselves for more rounds of substantial downsizing at our military facilities.”

About Nick Storm

Nick Storm is the Anchor and Managing Editor of Pure Politics, the only nightly program dedicated to Kentucky politics. Nick covers all of the political heavyweights and his investigative work brings to light issues that might otherwise go unnoticed, like the connection between the high profile Steubenville, Ohio rape and a Kentucky hacker whose push for further investigation could put him in federal prison. Nick is also working on a feature length bio documentary Outlaw Poet: A documentary on Ron Whitehead. Follow Nick on Twitter @NickStorm_cn2. Nick can be reached at 502-792-1107 or nicholas.storm@twcnews.com.

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