- Associated Press - Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Recent editorials from Georgia newspapers:

July 12

The Telegraph, Macon, Georgia, on Congress obligation to support military:

Last week, the Army announced an accelerated drawdown of its forces to 450,000 active duty soldiers from 490,000 by the end of 2018. Fort Benning in Columbus is slated to lose 3,350 soldiers. Five other bases in Alaska, Washington, Hawaii and two in Texas, will shoulder the majority of the initial cuts of over 1,000 soldiers. Rep. Sanford Bishop blames budget cuts due to sequestration. “Our national security should not be held hostage by sequestration, Bishop wrote in a media release. “Due to the majority’s avoidable budget caps, the Army is being forced to reduce troop strength, training, and readiness. I believe it will adversely affect families and businesses around the Chattahoochee Valley. Congress must redouble its efforts to lift the budget caps and adequately fund all our nation’s strategic needs.”

And it’s not just soldiers and their families that will be impacted. The Army will also cut 17,000 civilian workers by the end of fiscal year 2017. These cuts also hit at the belly of morale. Fort Benning is the home to the 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division. It will become a maneuver battalion task force by 2017, which will reduce its need for training areas.

In the midst of the Army’s woes there are cautionary lessons for other branches of the military. The Army News Service reported that Brig. Gen. Randy George, director of force management for the Army, said during a news conference Thursday that “The Army followed a long and deliberate process that included utilization of a (Government Accountability Office-endorsed military value analysis process, and an inclusive total Army analysis, in order to determine the best construct for the Army, based on the threats we face and the current fiscal environment we must operate in.”

Where did Fort Benning land in this analysis of quality and availability of its training spaces? Benning’s MVA (military value assessment) scored in the bottom third. The impacts of defense budget cuts will soon roll through all of the services. More cuts could severely hamper our Air Force as it is called on more and more to send war fighters into the air rather than ground forces. The Air Force Times reported that the Air Force has started asking airmen to return to active duty and encouraging those ready to leave to stay on for at least two more years.

For all the services, the solutions won’t be found in a ledger book. They sit in the halls of Congress. If senseless sequestration continues, further cleaver-like cuts will occur rather than a well-planned repositioning of our force strength. If members of Congress say what they mean about supporting our military, they better start showing it. The Army Chief of Staff Gen. Raymond Odierno said, echoed by Gen. George, that “The Army is able to now, and has been able in the past, to respond to a variety of scenarios, and multiple scenarios, at the same time. An end strength of 420,000 (if sequestration continues) will mean this is no longer possible.” That’s not a good situation for this nation.




July 10

Savannah (Georgia) Morning News on Pentagon making correct decision:

Coastal Georgia was able to breathe at least a temporary sigh of relief Wednesday when the Pentagon announced the first wave of troop reductions in its plan to reduce the Army nationwide by 40,000 soldiers within the next two years.

Currently, Fort Stewart has more than 15,500 military personnel and more than 3,200 Army Civilians. A 950-soldier reduction would bring the Fort Stewart population down to 14,550 military personnel.

The base previously had 14,000 military personnel in 2002.

When you consider those numbers, Wednesday’s reduction was a nick, not a significant cut.

Elsewhere in the state, Fort Benning is scheduled to lose about 3,400 soldiers.

Bill Hubbard, president and CEO of the Savannah Area Chamber of Commerce, said the fact that Fort Stewart’s hit was relatively small was a reflection on the importance of the largest Army base east of the Mississippi River.

Fort Stewart, with Hunter Army Air Field, the Townsend Bombing Range and the protected airspace off the coast, has huge strategic value, Hubbard said.

One factor, he said, may have been that area business and political leaders have been active in letting the Pentagon know the true value of the installation - the Fort Stewart/Hunter complex represents $5.2 billion a year in direct economic impact in coastal Georgia.

A week earlier, in talking to the Savannah Morning News editorial board, U.S. Sen. David Perdue said the high quality ratings Fort Stewart and Hunter have received could be helpful when Pentagon officials consider where to make cuts.

In that vein, Secretary of Defense Ash Carter announced Monday that Fort Stewart and Hunter Army Airfield have received the 2015 Commander in Chief’s Annual Award for Installation Excellence, which recognizes “the outstanding and innovative efforts of the people who operate and maintain U.S. military installations.”

Fort Stewart and Hunter were selected “for their exemplary support of Department of Defense missions.”

The announcement went on to say Fort Stewart and Hunter are “known as the premier force projection and joint training installation on the East coast . and continuously provides a safe, secure, and responsive community that enhances its power projection platform in support of national security objectives.”

In 2014, the announcement read, the two bases “led the Army in programs to improve the quality of life for soldiers and their families while sustaining a combat ready mission environment.”

The announcement went on to praise Fort Stewart and Hunter for offering free child care for the children of deployed soldiers and providing post-deployment stress relief for more than 6,000 soldiers through its Warrior Adventure Quest program.

The combination of soldiers, defense department civilians and contractors at Fort Stewart and Hunter makes for “a motivated, dedicated, competent, and innovative workforce that supports a high operations tempo despite the challenges of constrained resources, reduced manpower and aging facilities.”

Other Fort Stewart/Hunter achievements in 2014 include: five Army Community of Excellence 1st Place and Gold Winner awards; five Army Superior Unit Awards; Presidential Green Government Award; Secretary of the Army Environmental Restoration Installation Award; the Chief of Staff Award for Excellence in Legal Assistance; Tree City USA; and a Certificate of Appreciation from the Governor of Georgia for being a “valued” partner of the Georgia Clean Air Campaign.

Unfortunately, the military reductions announced Monday probably will not be the last, but given the accomplishments of Fort Stewart and Hunter, there’s reason to hope any future cuts will treat them as lightly as the first round.

U.S. Rep. Buddy Carter, R-1st District, got it right when he said the two bases are uniquely equipped and strategically located with vast training areas, modern facilities and a network of intermodal deployment options through nearby ports and on-post and nearby airports.

“With our unmatched capabilities, I remain optimistic for the future. . Fort Stewart and Hunter Army Airfield remain the right place to grow,” he said.

Yes, they do. Now the challenge is to keep repeating that message to the Pentagon.




July 14

The Augusta (Georgia) Chronicle on no need for new gun control laws:

President Obama wants to renew the gun control debate because the accused Charleston, S.C., church shooter “had no trouble getting his hands on a gun.”

No surprise there. One of the most powerful ways to advance unreasoned public policy is to foist it on a grief-stricken population.

But the irony of using the Emanuel AME tragedy to launch attacks on the Second Amendment is that the incident might have been averted had officials simply enforced laws already on the books.

The FBI now says it should have flagged accused shooter Dylann Roof for a pending drug charge when he purchased a gun from a South Carolina retailer in April.

“We are all sick that this has happened,” FBI Director James Comey told reporters in Washington.

Comey said an examiner unfamiliar with South Carolina geography contacted the wrong law enforcement jurisdiction while trying to obtain details on Roof’s arrest in February for illegal possession of Suboxone.

Though Roof hadn’t been convicted, Comey says the 21-year-old’s admission to possessing the prescription drug would have indicated he was “actively engaged” in unlawful drug use and disqualified the purchase.

But as it happened, Roof walked out with a .45-caliber Glock pistol that police say he used to kill nine churchgoers two months later.

Of course, the futility of gun control laws - including background check laws - is that they do not prevent criminal acts nor totally stop the criminally-minded from obtaining guns.

Any reasonable person can understand someone as driven and depraved as Roof would acquire a weapon any way he could, legally or not.

That’s why President Obama was flat-out wrong when he said the Charleston shooting might not have happened “if Congress had passed some commonsense gun safety reforms” after the 2012 massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn.

But if the Obama administration followed “commonsense” immigration reforms, 32-year-old Kathryn Steinle likely would still be alive instead of murdered by a multiple-felon illegal immigrant in the “sanctuary” city of San Francisco.

Conjecture about the Steinle shooting aside, there is nothing in the post-Newtown gun control legislation that would have prevented the Charleston murders.

It wasn’t a lack of gun control that enabled Roof to have a pistol - it was a failure of the federal government’s bureaucracy. And it wasn’t law-abiding gun owners, the “gun lobby” or the Second Amendment that killed the Emanuel AME churchgoers - it was an ignorant racist with delusions of glory.

So before infringing on Americans’ constitutional rights any further, is it too much to ask the government to properly enforce the restrictions it already has placed on us?



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