By Marty Schladen
and Chris Roberts
El Paso Times
FORT BLISS, Texas – President Obama will visit Fort Bliss, Texas, on Friday, the day after the Republican national convention ends, White House officials confirmed today.
A White House official said the president will speak with troops and have a roundtable discussion with service-members and military families.
The visit will be two years to the day after Obama’s last trip to the vast Army post to mark the draw-down of troops in Iraq. Fort Bliss soldiers participated in the Iraqi invasion in 2003 and they were among the last to serve in combat roles there, Army officials said in 2011.
On this visit, Obama is expected to speak on soldier well-being, said another government source, who asked not to be identified because details of the visit haven’t been officially announced. He also is expected to speak about sequestration, a process that was part of the congressional debt-reduction deal that will require about $500 billion in across-the-board military cuts, the source said.
When Defense Secretary Leon Panetta visited Fort Bliss in January he characterized the sequestration cuts as “nuts.”
“It would do serious damage to our defense system,” Panetta said. “And frankly, the strategy that we’ve designed, I’d have to throw it out the window and start over.”
He said those cuts could halt or hinder all military construction projects, including Fort Bliss’ new $1 billion Beaumont Army Medical Center.
It will be his third visit to El Paso and his second to Fort Bliss since he became president in 2009.
Obama’s only other presidential visit to the Borderland sought to highlight the importance of international commerce and immigration.
On May 10, 2011, he spoke at the Chamizal National Memorial in an unsuccessful bid to get Congress to reform the county’s immigration policies.