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Ft. Knox and Ft. Campbell Army bases in Kentucky appear safe from closing, at least for now

Sep 26th, 2017

By Tom Latek

Kentucky Today

There’s some good news from Washington for Ft. Knox and Ft. Campbell, Kentucky’s two major U. S. Army bases.

A House-Senate conference committee will have to iron out differences in versions passed by each chamber, but it appears the 2018 National Defense Authorization Act will not include a mechanism for base closings.

The Senate last week, on an 89-8 vote, approved the $700 billion measure, without taking up dozens of controversial amendments, including one that would have set up a process for base closing.

According to the Association of the United States Army, among the details to be worked out include how large the Army will be allowed to grow, during the fiscal year that begins next month.

Both House and Senate versions include increases in Regular Army, Army National Guard and Army Reserve troop levels, but there are big differences.

The House allows a 10,000-soldier increase in the Regular Army. The Senate allows a 5,000 increase. The House increases the Army National Guard by 4,000, to the Senate’s 500. The Army Reserve increases by 3,000 under the House bill, but just 500 in the Senate.

A story on the Association’s website, says base closing, supported by the Trump administration, is supported by Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., the Senate Armed Services Committee chairman, and Sen. Jack Reed of Rhode Island, the committee’s ranking Democrat. But the McCain-Reed proposal setting up a base-closing process was one of hundreds of amendments abandoned by the Senate when debate on the bill became bogged down by legislative procedure.

Another amendment not acted upon, by Sen. Tom Cotton, R-Ark., would have ended the threat of sequestration cutting future defense budgets.

Since base closing is not authorized in either the House or Senate bills, the issue appears to be dead until the fiscal 2019 budget. However, sequestration and defense budget caps could still be addressed by Congress as part of a larger budget resolution.

The Senate version includes about $37 billion more in defense spending than requested by the administration and exceeds by $91 billion the caps on defense spending set in the 2011 Budget Control Act. Those increases will only be possible if Congress amends or agrees to somehow circumvent the law’s budget limits.

The last round of Base Reduction and Closings, or BRAC, in 2005, spared Ft. Knox, but stripped it of the Armor Center and School. The base gained the Human Resource Center of Excellence; the 3rdBrigade Combat Team, 1st Infantry Division; Army Reserve Training Center; 100th Division Headquarters; and the 3rd Sustainment Command (Expeditionary).

The website globalsecurity.org said Fort Campbell was spared from massive cuts after the Budget Control Act of 2011 sequester, but two brigade-sized elements, about 6,000 soldiers, were removed from the division’s highest strength of more than 35,000 soldiers. Since 2014, Fort Campbell lost the 4th Brigade Combat Team, the 159th Combat Aviation Brigade and 363 other soldiers from various units. In 2013, more than 31,000 soldiers lived and worked in and around the post. By 2017, about 26,500 soldiers live on base.