The Military Affairs Council, part of the Colorado Springs Regional Business Alliance, hosted a military speakers forum Wednesday afternoon that featured a discussion with three retired military generals about the complicated nature of today’s military, the effects of federal budget cuts and how those things affect the local community.
The forum’s panel was composed of retired Army Gen. Charles Jacoby, retired Air Force Gen.William Shelton and retired Air Force Lieutenant Gen. Michael Gould. It was moderated by Maj. Gen. Mark Volcheff, director of plans, policy and strategy for headquarters and management at the U.S. Air Force Academy.
The event began with a question about how the country has changed in recent decades with respect to the military, and each of the panelists responded by telling the audience the differences and similarities they each see in America since the end of the Vietnam War in 1975.
“I would say there is a very different look to [the military],” Shelton said. “Our professionalism is higher, our capabilities are greater, but this kind of drawdown does feel similar … and our job is to make sure we don’t bottom out like we did in the late ‘70s.”
The trio went on to discuss other ways in which the country has changed with respect to its military, including positive moves toward a more appreciative civilian populous.
“The difference I see today is a much, much greater appreciation for the military,” Gould said. “I think that speaks volumes.”
Later in the discussion, an audience member asked how the generals feel about the possibility of continued budget cuts and how those, as well as the implementation of programs such as Base Realignment and Closure, might affect the Colorado Springs area’s military community.
“If we’re stuck with the Budget Control Act, then we’re stuck with the proposition that we may have to consider Base Realignment and Closure,” Shelton said. “I don’t like it intuitively or instinctively, because once you give it up the base is gone forever. … I would say Colorado is in a good position to weather a BRAC, but I do think we should take a different approach.”
That approach, Shelton said, would entail military installations in the Colorado Springs area maintaining their operations, continuing to play on their strengths and be the first in line to receive units relocating from other installations around the country.
“I think Colorado Springs is in a great position,” Jacoby said in agreement. “We’ve got some unique capabilities that are here and not replicated any place else.”
He went on to discuss what he found an interesting dichotomy in today’s America.
“It’s really kind of interesting the catch-22 we find ourselves in,” he said. “We know where to save money, but we can’t save money because there’s politics and constituencies attached to that.”