Fort Bragg commanders talk downsizing and deployments

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Officials said even though we're not in a ground war, ISIS has added an extra unpredictable layer of concern (WTVD)

Downsizing, dollars, and deployments.

The three "Ds" consumed talks for Fort Bragg's commanding generals as they addressed an annual community breakfast Monday morning, describing the latest challenges amid defense budget cuts and increasing threats.

"It's no longer we can raise an Army at time of need because the time of need is now," said Lt. General Charles Cleveland, Commanding General of the United States Army Special Operations Command, or USASOC. "And if we don't take the preventative steps that only come from having a land force in the places that matter, we're going to have to raise an army that is many times greater than what we're getting asked to sustain right now."

Cleveland, alongside three other Fort Bragg commanders, addressed a crowd attending the Military Affairs Council Command Performance Breakfast at the Crown Complex. The annual event is sponsored by the Fayetteville Regional Chamber, which has played a vital role in the community pushback against federal budget cuts taking aim at Fort Bragg. (Read more here.)

More than 200,000 soldiers could lose jobs Army-wide in the cuts widely known as sequestration. Under current worst-case scenario projections, Fort Bragg could lose 16,000 personnel.

There is currently a freeze on civilian positions, and it's becoming increasingly apparent that there's no saving the 440th Airlift Wing. The Air Force Reserve unit is set for inactivation, leaving more than 1,300 reservists and civilians to find jobs in locations other than Pope Army Airfield. The inactivation means taking away a fleet of C-130s and personnel that provide a quarter of the Corps training opportunities at a moment's notice. The unit's commander addressed the latest developments on Friday. (Read more here.)

"The fact is we're not funded to our requirements," said Lt. Gen. Joseph Anderson, Commanding General for the XVIII Airborne Corps. "I'm not a math major, but the math doesn't add up."

Adding to budget woes is the fact that Fort Bragg troops continue to respond to an increasing demand, Corps is currently deployed in 18 countries which include Liberia, Afghanistan, and Iraq.

"Please remind people that the Army continues to go at a very high churn," said Anderson. "So while we're drawing down, this gets tough. So it's less people to do more."

A different kind of fight

When the 82nd Airborne Division's 3rd Brigade Combat Team deployed to Iraq earlier this year, they didn't go for a combat mission. They went to train, advise and assist Iraqi forces.

On Monday, the Division's commanding general said he was sure 3rd BCT would have company soon. About 500 troops from Division Headquarters are expected to deploy this summer.

"It won't be very long before we send even more paratroopers to Iraq," said Maj. Gen. Richard Clarke.

In the midst of the current mission, there's no denying the looming threat of militant groups such as ISIS.

"Oh, this is, this is years. So if you listen to the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, everybody else, this is not a one year (brushes hands) 'okay, they're done and we're gonna get out of there,'" said Anderson. "It's about enduring capabilities. What we just did in Afghanistan. You have to build enduring capability and there's tough areas most of these countries have challenges with."

Those challenges include intelligence, aviation and logistics. It a fight that will require funding and global partnerships, said Anderson.

"You see how heinous ISIS can be when they chop people's heads off and you see how that rallies nations like Jordan and the UAE," said Anderson. "Ultimately, you want a coalition of the willing here."

It's this type of unconventional fighting, on the digital, air and ground front, that feeds the argument to spare Fort Bragg in looming cuts.

"We all grew up in an era when war was pretty, it was pretty cut and dry," said Cleveland. "You knew when you were at war and you knew when you were at peace."

"What we find ourselves in today is a very different situation. It's an enemy that's to some degree a non-state entity , to some degree it's a state enemy that is all over the world and there's an ideology involved in it, an extremism that has a religious tinge to it," continued Cleveland.

"When the nation is forced to confront that threat, most of it comes from Fort Bragg, North Carolina. What Forscom generates, or what USASOC generates, and that's not going to change" he said.

"We never go to war with enough of what we need. Never do," said Brig. Gen. James Scanlan, Commander of the 440th Airlift Wing.

Scanlan, who is now focused on placing reservists amid inactivation, understands the integral role his unit has played over the past year, as it remains at the mercy of Air Force cuts.

"We know at the end of the day, it's all about readiness," said Scanlan. "We gotta be ready to go because there are no shortage of threats in the world."

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