Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Short Sighted and Self-Defeating

I imagine that a good number of Fort Carson personnel live in the Pueblo area. Many shop and eat and party there. Some may choose it as a retirement spot. That means Pueblo and Colorado Springs, those famously feuding cities, would seem to share a common interest in keeping the Mountain Post off future base closure lists, by supporting efforts to ensure it remains a viable training facility. So what, other than a belly full of anti-Colorado Springs bile, explains The Pueblo Chieftain editorial page's continuing efforts to cheer on the forces seeking to permanently slam the door on future expansion of the Pinon Canyon training site?

Colorado Springs and El Paso County obviously reap the greatest direct economic benefit from Fort Carson. But Pueblo, as close as it is, must also look at the base as an economic engine of importance -- not to mention a military asset of continuing value to the entire country. But the Chieftain, acting it seems out of blind spite for anything that might benefit Colorado Springs, has thrown in with those in Southern Colorado who began by expressing legitimate fears about the Army's use of eminent domain, but who have since adopted an angry, take-no-prisoners attitude, adamantly opposed to Pinon Canyon expansion under any circumstances.

The latest lashing-out at the U.S. Army wasn't a bill designed to restrict the use of eminent domain, but one aimed at blocking the state of Colorado from selling or leasing land to Fort Carson in the event that it had private parties willing to sell Fort Carson more acreage. That's a radical shift of emphasis from the issues that sparked this controversy, as the Denver Post's Vince Carroll pointed out a few days back. Opponents have continued shifting the goal posts, and re-casting their objections, and launching new attacks on a downsized and re-worked Army proposal, in what's morphed into a case of knee-jerk, anti-military obstructionism.

The Army hasn't completely giving up on expansion, reportedly. But its recent shifting of funds to another facility is one clear (and potentially ominous) signal that it will direct future resources to more hospitable places.

Perhaps The Chieftain and other expansion-bashers are delighted by the Army's retreat. Nothing short of a complete and unconditional surrender will satisfy some folks. But the gloating will end in Pueblo soon enough, if Carson's inability to train additional troops, and to provide adequate training space for the fighting force of the 21st and 22nd Century, land it on a future base closure list. The gloating will end when all those dollars and jobs go away.

It won't impact the ranchers-turned-activists down south. They're content living a 19th Century existence and don't want their little island of economic and cultural isolation disturbed. But Pueblo will feel the pain -- and perhaps come to regret the short-sighted, anti-military signals that the city's daily newspaper is sending out to the rest of the country.

Colorado dodged a bullet in the last base closure round. Carson was fortunate to actually benefit from the process. Yet Colorado showed little gratitude when the Army raised the possibility of expanding the training site to accommodate a bigger mission and more troops. What the Pentagon got in thanks was hostility, vilification, statehouse measures aimed at fragging the proposal -- what amounted to a rolling-up of the welcome mat in Colorado.

One can't help wonder whether folks back in Washington are having regrets about shifting additional assets to Carson in the last go-around. One can't help wonder if they're taking note of Colorado's anti-military attitudes. You can be sure that bases in more military-friendly states, and their representatives in Congress, are taking note.

They might even be clipping these Chieftain editorials for future reference.


Bill S said...

Your rants show your true colors. I don't know why I am writing here since nobody else ever does except for the fact that a little fair reporting would do a better job of explaining the situation rather than just saying anybody opposed to this expansion is anti-army. That's like me saying your support of the expansion makes you anti-everything Colorado except for El Paso county.

Why not mention how the army has poisoned the well they drank from in the way they developed the site in the 1980's? That was a time when El Paso county turned down the army's request to create training land in their own county. Then Pueblo turned it down and it was force fed to the poorer, less politically influenced individuals down south. And how did they go about selling it to the politicians then? They lied! They said there would never be live fire exercises as the army admitted even then that the environment couldn't handle that kind of stress. They also said the army would never be back for more land. Another lie! Then they said the army would spend all this development monies to develop the land (never happened) and that the taxes from the land taken out of production would be replaced with PILT monies. Guess what? Never happened!!! So instead of stomping your feet and holding your breath, why don't you try to understand why people in the region (and all of Colorado obviously - not just Pueblo and SE Colorado) are fighting this tooth and nail. If Springs and El Paso county wanted the economic impact from having a huge military town then they should have offered their land! Otherwise, you are just stealing from your neighbor to keep feeding your unsustainable lifestyle!

Anyways, thanks for the opportunity to present another side of the "anti-army" (as you like to describe us) crowd...

Sean Paige said...

I know the original Pinon Canyon deal created some hard feelings, Bill -- some grievances that are still being nursed in certain circles. But without seeming flip, that's water under the bridge now. Those old wounds won't be healed, or wrongs corrected, by the score settled, by depriving young soldiers of the training grounds they require to prepare for real war. I thought some of the original objections were valid. But somewhere the anti-expansion effort seemed to take on a life of its own, even when the Army made efforts to modify its plans, explain itself and find some compromise that would benefit the Army and the ranchers. The effort crossed the line, in my view, into stubborn, angry, irrational, anti-Army obstinacy. And I fear that could come back to haunt Colorado in the next closure round. Perhaps we can use the abandoned lands left behind when the Army pulls out for cattle ranching, since some people seem to thing that's the best economy this part of Colorado should hope for. But I would like to see Carson stay put, for the benefit of Southern Colorado and the country.

Bill S said...

One thing we can agree on is that we should NOT keep training ground from our forces if it will help to save our boys lives. What I don't understand is why people from around El Paso county want to play so loose with other people's property. The GAO has released their findings and stated that the army has not justified the need for the additional training land.


In addition, the Base Realignment and Closure (“BRAC”) Commission recommended that a Brigade Combat Team be relocated from Fort Hood, Texas to Fort Carson. As a result of the BRAC recommendations, 8,500 new soldiers are expected to be stationed at Fort Carson by 2009, yielding a total projected troop strength of roughly 23,000 soldiers. The BRAC recommendations reported that an “independent and objective analysis showed that, with or without including PiƱon Canyon Maneuver Site in the accounting of acreage, Fort Carson still has more contiguous maneuver acres per brigade combat team than Fort Hood.” The BRAC Commission concluded that “Fort Hood does not have sufficient facilities and available maneuver training acreage and ranges to support six permanent heavy BCTs and numerous other operational units stationed there. Fort Carson has sufficient capacity to support these units.

Now call me a skeptic but when I read things such as the GAO report or the BRAC recommendations I start to think that there is actually enough training land in the area. If there is not then they can start shifting some of these troops out of here and into areas they already have the area to train (Nevada seems like a good place). Of course you want to see Carson stay put because that is what is good economically for El Paso county in general and Colorado Springs in particular. It is not about what is good for Southern Colorado and the country. If it was good for the country then the army wouldn’t be wasting more of our money trying to get more land when they already have enough in other places. Like I said before, if El Paso county wanted Springs to become a major military installation then they should have given the army THEIR land when the training site was first created. However, they did not and for a city that has staked its economy on military, megachurches and land developers this could be a major blow to the El Paso county economy. I understand this but without seeming flip that is the fault of the city and county leaders for not diversifying the economy more. And please don’t give me any nonsense about how the army has tried to find some compromise that would benefit the army and the ranchers. That tactic was already used back in the creation of the site. Trust me when I say these areas cannot take anymore of the land taken off the tax rolls as even people who are “content living a 19th Century existence and don't want their little island of economic and cultural isolation disturbed” need to go to school and have the cities provide basic services. And to say that some people seem to think that ranching is the best this part of Colorado can hope for economically is false! Or have you not been out that way and seen the solar/wind farms popping up everywhere? Whether you believe in renewable energies this is providing some great jobs and generating revenue.

Here’s where promises were made:
Here is where things were sunny and good:
And here is where the army pulled back the carrot:

Bill S said...

And to get back to what is really important – the safety of our brave soldiers – if there is not enough training land already at PCMS then we SHOULD send them to a place where they can be properly trained. Maybe this will be the catalyst Colorado Springs needs to get the economy off the floor. This would be the same as what happened to Pueblo when the steel mills shut down and their economy blew up. Now they have seemingly figured things out with a lot of good news coming out of that city with The Water Company, Vestas, Integrated Document Solutions among others.

When I see you and many others in the Springs area calling the people in opposition as anti-army it just makes my blood boil though. I am sure there are elements in the coalition that have those feelings but it is not the driving force here. The driving force is what is right and what is wrong. Not giving our troops enough room to train is just as wrong as stealing land from American citizens when it is not needed. Treating people and their property with respect is what’s right just like if there is not enough training land at PCMS already then it is right to move some of the soldiers to a place that will suit them.

Craig Cox said...


I think you are ignoring one of the main problems with what Colorado decided to do, which was to prevent private land owners from offering land for Army use. This goes beyond the use of eminent domain; this is government restricting the right of private landowners to dispose of their private property as they choose. I don't see the same restriction on private individuals putting up windmills or solar panels. If property rights are going to be respected, which they should be, then respect them in all cases, not just for politically correct purposes.

Bill S said...

Couldn't agree more Craig. But I'm not sure I understand your point. Those wind/solar farms are still on private property. That land is not TAKEN from landowners but is instead leased and kept in production. It really is a win-win for most people around here. But you are 100% correct in stating that "If property rights are going to be respected, which they should be, then respect them in all cases, not just for politically correct purposes."