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Defense Shift Could Have Impact On Colorado Bases

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(credit: defense.gov)

(credit: defense.gov)

DENVER (AP) — Budget cuts and the winding down of wars in Iraq and Afghanistan will have long-term ramifications for the large Army and Air Force presence in Colorado as details of a new defense strategy become public in coming weeks.

President Barack Obama said Thursday the U.S. would still have the strongest military in the world despite spending less. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said ground forces would be reduced and restructured now that the Iraq war is ended and the U.S. is scaling back in Afghanistan.

The effects on Colorado weren’t immediately clear, and likely won’t be felt for years because of the long lead time in military budgeting.

Colorado is home to about 27,000 soldiers at Fort Carson outside Colorado Springs. Another 2,700 soldiers are expected at the post when a helicopter brigade is established.

Colorado is also home to the U.S. Northern Command and the Air Force Space Command in Colorado Springs, the Air Force Academy north of Colorado Springs and sizable Defense Department intelligence contingent in the Denver suburb of Aurora.

“It was clear there was going to be a reduction to the land forces, with the Marine Crops and the Army,” said James A. Helis, chairman of the National Security and Strategy Department at the Army War College. “But I think we knew that anyway.”

The new strategy moves the U.S. further from being able to fight two wars in different regions at the same time.

Rep. Mike Coffman, R-Colo., faulted Obama for not spelling out budget how cuts will be made.

“What weapons systems are we canceling, what programs are we delaying, how does this affect the capability of our force?” Coffman asked.

“What was specific was changing our fundamental doctrine of being capable of simultaneously fighting two conflicts to fighting one. I fundamentally disagree with that,” he said.

Coffman is an Iraq war veteran who spent six months in that country in 2005-06 as a civil affairs officer with the Marines.

He said Obama should push South Korea and Europe to increase defense spending.

“The vast majority of our NATO allies aren’t even spending 2 percent on defense. They’re relying on us,” he said.

By Dan Elliott, AP Writer (© Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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