Army officials laud TACOM’s value, fear budget cuts

Ursula Watson
The Detroit News

Warren — Officials with the U.S. Army Materiel Command said Tuesday during a visit to TACOM that the facility is critical to the local economy, but budget cuts could crimp the military’s ability to attract young graduates for key jobs.

Gen. Dennis Via said TACOM is incredibly important to the Army, to the Department of Defense and Warren.

“It has a long and enduring presence,” Via, who became the 18th commanding general of the AMC in August 2012, said about TACOM. “It is the second largest employer here (Warren) … with about a $3 billion economic impact to the local area.”

The facility, established in 1942 and employing 7,500 members of the military and civilians, is one of the Army’s “centers of excellence.” It develops and designs military vehicles, equipment, weaponry and supplies from production to disposal.

But that excellence could be affected negatively by forced budget cuts to the Pentagon under a congressional deal to avoid a government shutdown.

“It is enormously and negatively impacting our ability to support our forces today,” Via said of sequestration. “It puts us at risks of having a hollow Army if we are not able to have the resources that we need to ensure that we are able to train our soldiers, provide them with the equipment that they require. … We are not resourced to the level that we need to support all the operations.”

Headquartered in Alabama., the materiel command has 62,000 employees in the U.S. and overseas. Via oversees a $58 million budget and activity in 144 nations.

The command’s headquarters has seen a 25 percent reduction in staffing because of the congressional budget cuts.

“Sequestration is not the way to manage and run an army,” Via said. “If sequestration continues we will likely require BRAC (Base Closure and Realignment).”

Col. Bill Bigelow, materiel command director of public and congressional affairs, said the Army is facing an aging military and civilian staff. While the U.S. Army Materiel Command has ramped-up its efforts to attract younger prospects from high schools and institutions of higher learning, with its 1,000 Intern Initiative kicked off in March, sequestration makes a military career less attractive.

Bigelow said younger people are going to ask themselves: “Why would I want to work for an organization that is talking about cutting its force?”

Congress established the 2005 BRAC Commission to evaluate which bases could be closed and which duties realigned to save money. Nearby Selfridge Air National Guard Base in Harrison Township has had services and personnel realigned in previous rounds of BRAC.

Via said TACOM is responsible for up to 65 percent of all the equipment used by the ground forces of the Army, in the U.S. and overseas.

uwatson@detroitnews.com