In response to thousands of comments people from across the nation submitted to the Department of the Army concerning possible troop reductions at Fort Polk, Army officials have scheduled a Community Listening Meeting for 5 p.m. Monday, April 15 at the United Pentecostal Church in Leesville.
The meeting will provide an opportunity for the Department of the Army to gather additional information concerning the Army 2020 Force Restructure decision, according to Michael Reese, Chairman of Fort Polk Progress, an organization dedicated to growing Fort Polk.
Fort Polk Progress urges every person with the least interest in Fort Polk to attend the meeting.
“This will be our last opportunity to engage the Army publicly before a final decision concerning the future of Fort Polk is made,” said Reese.
“This has to be big. This has to be powerful. This is our last chance to make an impression on the decision makers about the future of this base, the support it enjoys from this Region, the potential negative economic impact, the military value of Fort Polk's assets, the impact on schools, and other important information submitted in the PEA.
“Our hope is to not only line the streets with Fort Polk supporters but to also fill the sanctuary and the fellowship hall of the church with those who have invested their lives into making Fort Polk the best hometown in the Army.”
The seating capacity of the United Pentecostal Church of Leesville where the meeting will take place is 1,500.
Officials from the Department of the Army will first visit Fort Polk before driving to the church. The exact route Army officials will use is still being planned; however, Fort Polk Progress hopes to release that route before April 15 to enable as many supporters as possible to be on hand. Fort Polk supporters from throughout the state and East Texas are encouraged to line the streets with signs of support that show just how far Fort Polk’s impact is felt.
More than 4,000 from multiple states responded to the Department of the Army concerning Fort Polk during the commenting period which ended March 21. In fact, comments from Fort Polk supporters numbered more than the combined comments of all other bases. The next highest in the number of comments received was Fort Leonard Wood at almost 2,200.
The comments were in response to the Army’s Programmatic Environmental Assessment (PEA) for Army force structure reductions and realignments that may occur through 2020. The PEA evaluates and assesses the environmental and socioeconomic impacts associated with potential adjustments to Army forces at 21 installations, including Fort Polk.
The Army’s proposal is to reduce its active duty end-strength from 562,000 at the end of FY 2012 to 490,000 by FY 2020. Three alternatives for each of the 21 bases are being considered: to significantly reduce force strength, to take no action or to increase force strength.
In the near future, Fort Polk could see a force strength reduction of 5,300 soldiers and civilian personnel; see no change at all; or see a growth of about 1,000 soldiers.
According to a press release from the Department of the Army, final decisions as to which alternative the Army will implement and which installations will see reductions or unit realignments have not yet been made. The decisions will be based on mission-related criteria and other factors, as well as operational requirements and capabilities, cost, strategic and geographical distribution, investment and regeneration, facilities for soldiers and family well-being.
Recent work done by economist Loren Scott, on behalf of Louisiana Economic Development, reveals that a troop reduction of 5,300 troops at Fort Polk would result in:
• an annual loss to the State treasury of $24,332,000.00
• an annual loss in local government revenue of $7,110,200.00
• an annual loss of sales totaling $401,200,000.00
• an annual loss of income totaling $347,600,000.00
• a loss of jobs totaling 8,661
• a loss in population totaling 20,786
The recent release of the fiscal year 2012 Fort Polk economic impact statement reinforces Dr. Scott’s findings, by detailing $1.86 billion in spending at the installation. Of that total, $980 million is payroll.
"An amount of $1.86 billion is a clear indication of the military value of Fort Polk to the Army and its profound impact to Central Louisiana and the entire state," Reese stated. "More than five years of impact statements have consistently shown annual Army investments of more than $1 billion. Combined with Fort Polk's expanding training range and more than $200 million in state and local investments to support the soldier community, there is no doubt that Fort Polk is an excellent value for the Army today and the right location for future growth."
With a payroll of $980 million, Fort Polk is the largest non-state government employer in Louisiana, according to Moody's Analytics.
To arrange for media coverage of the April 15 meeting, please call Tammy Sharp at 337-378-9329.
Media representatives are encouraged to contact their area chambers of commerce for comment and to schedule interviews with local business owners about the impact of a force reduction.
Chamber directors and presidents and their contact information can be found below:
Anne T. Causey
Vernon Parish Chamber of Commerce