COLUMBIA, SC — The U.S. Army’s Recruiting and Retention School and its 92 employees will move in October from Fort Jackson to Fort Knox, Ky., the military confirmed Thursday.
The relocation of the school to the home of its parent command will save the Army $14 million annually with a projected savings of $138 million over a 10-year period, the Army said in a press release.
The school’s mission is to train and educate Army recruiters.
“While Fort Jackson officials regret the loss of the school, they liken it to the gains over the past several years of the consolidated Drill Sergeant School, the 81st Regional Support Command, and the Armed Forces Chaplaincy Center,” the release said.
Relocating the school to the central Kentucky base, home of the U.S. Army Recruiting Command, “will provide greater synergy and synchronization between the (school) and the (command headquarters) related to the training needs of our recruiters and staff in the development of recruiting doctrine, distance learning, and school training curriculum.”
The shift relocates 67 military and 25 civilian workers, and their paychecks, from Fort Jackson to Fort Knox. The numbers of students that attend the school was not immediately available from military sources, nor was the annual economic impact of their spending while training here.
The Army said the move has been planned since 2011.
U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel earlier this month announced that the Obama administration wants to reduce the size of the Army to 440,000 or 450,000 soldiers. That’s down from a war time high of 570,000.
Those draw-downs are less than the “sequester” cuts that are the result of the debt ceiling standoff three years ago that was driven by House Republicans. The sequester would lower the size of the Army to 420,000, if it isn’t repealed before 2017.
A smaller Army likely will mean fewer recruits trained at Fort Jackson, the nation’s largest training base, which churns out about 50,000 new soldiers annually.
The move is the first hit to the state’s military industry, which pumps $15.7 billion in economic impact into the state each year.
Bill Bethea is a Bluffton attorney who heads the S.C. Military Base Task Force, which was appointed by Gov. Nikki Haley to protect and enhance the state’s installations and missions. He said task force members, headed by retired Maj. Gen. George Goldsmith of the Greater Columbia Chamber of Commerce, met with three ranking generals in the training command recently at Fort Jackson to receive an explanation about the move.
During the meeting, which was arranged with the help of U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., the generals said the move is part of a national “shuffling” of military missions nationwide.
When the Army moved its armor school out of Fort Knox, he said, it left unused barracks and classrooms adjacent to the recruiting command. Army officials concluded that instead of paying new recruiters a per diem for people to come to school in Columbia, they could house and train them at a much lower cost at Fort Knox.
He said the generals at the meeting also indicated that further “contraction” could benefit Fort Jackson.
“There are basic training units at other facilities that might shift here,” he said.