Garrison commander talks budget, Army's future

Col. Robert Barker (WRDW-TV)

Col. Robert Barker (WRDW-TV)

News 12 at 11 o'clock / Monday, Aug. 5, 2013

AUGUSTA, Ga. (WRDW) -- Fort Gordon's outgoing garrison commander says there are more tough times ahead.

Col. Robert Barker has held that job during one of the most challenging budget cycles the military has ever seen. Later this week, he will hand that job over to someone else. On Monday, News 12's Richard Rogers sat down with him to talk about the future for Augusta's Army post.

As garrison commander, Barker acts as sort of a city manager at Fort Gordon. He had to deal directly with furloughs that took money out of the pockets of 400 civilian employees.

"Knowing that it's taking pay from your employees and the hardships that it brings -- and then my employees still doing their jobs at the same level," Barker said.

This year's budget was painful.

"We had to make a lot of plans based on projections, never really knowing what was going to come about," the colonel said.

And Barker says next year's budget is just as uncertain.

"But at this point, I really don't know. If you listen to all the talk that comes from D.C. and DOD, it looks like it's going to be a hard year unless something changes," Barker said.

"Over all your years, is this the tightest budget you've ever seen?" Rogers asked.

"I think this is then hardest year we've had, that I've ever known of," Barker said.

Budget battles aside, this Army colonel wants you to know the soldiers remain ready for any mission that comes their way.

As he prepares to leave this office, he also wants to say thanks.

"People are always coming up asking what they can do for Fort Gordon and do for the soldiers and the families out here. You don't find that anyplace else. It's the best there is. It is a great place. Everybody works together from the community on the outside in the CSRA and everybody here on post. I just can't thank everybody enough."

Barker isn't moving very far. He's heading a few blocks away to become chief of staff for Commanding General Warren Patterson. The incoming garrison commander is Col. Samuel Anderson, who comes to Augusta from the War College and Fort Bragg before that.

The change of command ceremony will be Thursday at Fort Gordon.

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