WASHINGTON, D.C.-Fort Polk isn’t out of the woods yet, when it comes to force reductions, said Fort Polk Progress Chairman Michael Reese, who was in Washington Wednesday for the annual conference for Association of Defense Communities.
On Tuesday, Associated Press writer Richard Lardner reported that the Senate Armed Services readiness subcommittee rejected the Defense Department's request to close installations and facilities in the United States that are no longer needed as the military branches cut the number of troops in uniform. In addition, Lardner reported, the House Armed Services Committee last week also rejected more base closings, and even took the step of adding a provision barring the Pentagon from even planning for another round.
The effects of both moves ensure that a final defense policy bill approved by Congress for the 2014 fiscal year won't give the department permission to close excess bases. For Lardner’s full story, click here: http://bigstory.ap.org/article/panel-rejects-request-military-base-closings.
Despite Tuesday’s actions by both committees in the Senate and the House, Fort Polk still faces possible troop reductions, said Reese.
“Base Realignment and Closure is just one of many threats to Fort Polk,” Reese explained. “The most looming threat at this point is the Army 2020 Plan, which could reduce troop strength at Fort Polk by as many as 5,000 soldiers.”
Other options for Fort Polk under the Army 2020 Plan include adding 1,000 personnel to the base or keeping staffing levels the same. The Army 2020 decision concerning Fort Polk is expected by the end of June, said Reese.
Other threats to Fort Polk include sequestration, which are automatic cuts that began March 1 when Congress failed to cut the deficit by $1.2 trillion over a decade.
Under sequestration, the Department of Defense must cut its 2013 budget by about $41 billion by Sept. 30. Toward that end, hundreds of thousands of civilian workers, including those at Fort Polk, have been furloughed. Most civilian workers at Fort Polk begin taking one furlough day a week in July. In addition, essential training and maintenance programs at bases have been scaled back. Continued sequestration could result in about $500 billion of reductions to defense spending over the next decade.
Yet another threat to Fort Polk is in the Budget Control Act passed in 2011, which mandates that the military must cut its spending by $487 billion over the next decade.
According to Lardner, Defense Department leaders argued Tuesday that troop reductions will result in unnecessary installations and that the money saved by closing unused facilities can be spent on training and other essential operations.
Senators argued that the upfront costs of starting a new round of closures are too high, at $2.4 billion over five years, to cover the initial expense of base closing and that the last round of base closings in 2005 ended up costing $13 billion more than estimated.