This community, proud of the depot's decades of service, has long known that Defense Secretary Robert Gates is planning a modernization of the military's vehicle fleet, which could have an adverse effect on the local installation. Pessimists concerned that trimmed funding for the vehicles the depot services can find ample cohorts.
But perhaps the critical issue is the necessity for the depot to adapt to Gates' proposed changes, and in quick time. Thoughts already are moving strongly in that direction, it seems.
As Nathan Hill, the depot liaison for the Economic Development Council of Calhoun County, explained in a Star story last week, it's imperative that the depot prepares for the changing times. Coincidence or not, the depot rolled out two new vehicles last week. The timing couldn't have been more perfect.
Gates' plan is to spend more on helicopters that work well in combat theaters such as Afghanistan and spend less on Abrams tanks and Stryker personnel carriers. Both are repaired at Anniston's depot.
A depot that's passive in its planning is a depot at risk. It's good that some community leaders are aware of that harsh reality. Those who aren't need to be.
"In the long run, we all know the defense budget's going to go down unless we have another major conflict," Hill told The Star. "I would say between the Abrams (tanks) and Strykers and being prepared to repair the new (vehicles), hopefully it's not a significant impact on the depot."
No one in Calhoun County who lived through the shuttering of the former Fort McClellan needs reminding about the importance of military-based jobs to this area's economy. Since its World War II-era beginning, the depot has provided a needed service for the Pentagon and thousands of local families with steady and reliable incomes.
Any changes in the military budget that remove portions of the work from Anniston's depot would be especially troubling for a community mired in recession and still seeking its way after McClellan's closure. That's why Hill's words — that the depot "must be prepared" — are critical.
The depot has proven its worth to the U.S. military time after time, and we expect that will be the case this time, as well. Adaptation and versatility are the keys.