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Pentagon cuts hitting new soldiers in the jacket

Jul. 30, 2013 - 06:00AM   |  
New soldiers leave basic training at South Carolina's Fort Jackson without their full dress uniform because of budget cuts, the post's deputy commander said. Pictured: Members of the Idaho Army National Guard's Honor Guard team stand at parade rest during the seven-person firing party event during the 2009 Army National Guard Honor Guard Competition at Fort Myer, Va.
New soldiers leave basic training at South Carolina's Fort Jackson without their full dress uniform because of budget cuts, the post's deputy commander said. Pictured: Members of the Idaho Army National Guard's Honor Guard team stand at parade rest during the seven-person firing party event during the 2009 Army National Guard Honor Guard Competition at Fort Myer, Va. (Sgt. 1st Class Jon Soucy/Army)
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COLUMBIA, S.C. — The automatic budget cuts hitting the Army mean new soldiers leave basic training at South Carolina’s Fort Jackson without their full dress uniform, the post’s deputy commander said Tuesday.

Col. Stephen Yackley, deputy commander of Fort Jackson, told a meeting of military supporters that the across-the-board cuts have forced furloughs and fewer work hours for many of the civilians who work on the post, and that includes the tailors who fit new uniforms.

“Sequestration is having an impact, large and small,” Yackley told a Chamber of Commerce group that works to support the military in the region. “Things are being deferred, but we are trying to maintain our high level of training.”

Fort Jackson graduates about 50,000 soldiers from basic training every year, and thousands more attend advance training there, making it the Army’s largest training installation. There are about 3,500 civilians who work for the military on the post.

Yackley said commanders at the Army’s largest training installation are making sure soldiers’ basic combat training is going at full strength. But he said the furloughs ordered under sequestration translate into such things as civilian bus drivers working fewer days and shorter hours at gates manned by civilian guards.

The colonel said soldiers leave basic training with everything they need for their combat and everyday work uniforms. But the 1,200 men and women who are entering the ranks every week in the coming months will have to get their dress jackets supplied at their next post, he explained.

“They get their uniforms, their boots, their socks, everything they need,” said Yackley. “We are just pushing down the road a bit the distribution of their dress jackets,” which are required for more formal military occasions.

The furloughs are the result of across-the board sequestration budget cuts that Congress agreed to as part of a 2011 deal to raise the nation’s debt limit.

The first round of cuts went into effect earlier this year. If Congress and the White House can’t agree on a plan to undo the sequestration, the Pentagon will have to slice $52 billion from its budget for the 2014 fiscal year that begins October 1.

George Goldsmith, the chairman of the Chamber panel, said he thinks sequestration is having a big impact on the local economy.

“Just ask the hotel and restaurants,” said Goldsmith, a retired two-star Army general. “Some people may be affected, and others not, but we all have to be aware of what is happening in our community.”

A study conducted last year for the governor’s task force on military base closures found that the U.S. military pumps nearly $16 billion into South Carolina’s economy and supports about 140,000 jobs, concentrated in Beaufort, Charleston, Columbia and Sumter.

The state is home to eight military installations, 56,000 military retirees and 900 defense contractor firms, and local communities work to support them.

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